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COVID-19 vaccine clinics for Harford middle and high school teachers canceled due to uncertainty about supply

COVID-19 vaccine clinics for secondary teachers that had been scheduled for next week were canceled by the Harford County Health Department, because of uncertainties surrounding how many doses of the agency will receive.

“We just don’t have the vaccine,” Molly Mraz, a spokesperson for the county health department, said. “They made the call to cancel the clinics because we didn’t know what we’re going to get and we don’t have it now to be able to ensure those vaccines [will be available].”

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While the county health department has plenty of second doses, the shipments of first doses have become more limited. Health officials are prohibited from using the designated second doses as first doses.

Parents of middle and high school students had been notified Jan. 20 that their school would be closed one day next week so that staff could be vaccinated. Because those clinics were canceled, there will now be instruction each day next week, according to a message from Harford County Public Schools.

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As of now, middle and high school students remain on track to return March 15, although currently only once per week.

On Wednesday, the school system announced that elementary school students would now be returning twice a week beginning March 1, with the possibility of four days a week starting in April. Previously, HCPS had said students would only return once a week for in-person instruction. Parents may still opt for all-virtual learning for their children.

Superintendent Sean Bulson said getting teachers vaccinated, along with other mitigation measures and research that shows there is minimal transmission among elementary-age students, is part of the rationale in allowing more students in buildings for in-person instruction. Teachers from all 33 public elementary schools were able to get vaccinated at Health Department clinics last week, although the school system was not requiring educators be vaccinated.

Bulson noted that there is a difference in transmission between younger students and transmission for middle- and high-school aged students. Because of that, and the cancellation of vaccine clinics, school system staff will be “monitoring and reassessing and seeing if any adjustments need to be made,” to plans to return secondary students.

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Original plans to return secondary students were based on community transmission metrics and that may still be a factor, Bulson said, even if those metrics have been removed from the current state guidance on school reopenings. He’s hopeful that current trends in the metrics, which have been declining, will continue over the next month.

“Our transmission in the county has been going down pretty steadily,” he said. “Hopefully by March 15, we’ll be back in a place that we had previously considered more safe. We do need to treat elementary and secondary differently when we consider the differential transmissions for those age levels.”

As of Thursday, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 6.57 and it’s average new case rate was 22.31 per 100,000, according to state data. That is the lowest those figures have been since early November, save for a one-day blip in the local case rate earlier this month.

Previous guidance stated those numbers should be 5% positivity and 15 per 100,000, respectively, to be considered low community transmission.

Harford health department officials recently said they would be prioritizing second doses during the month of February.

Mraz said she’s not sure if the department will be rescheduling the secondary school clinics.

“It’s our understanding that in the next four to six weeks, the national vaccine supply will go into the private sector and everyone is going to be able to get their vaccine at their doctor’s office or a pharmacy, similar to getting a flu shot,” she said.

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