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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

About 1,000 Union County School Employees Get An Early Shot At COVID-19 Vaccines

Courtesy Atrium Health

About 1,000 employees of Union County Public Schools are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 Friday and Saturday, an option that's not yet available to most frontline workers in the state.

The school district started working with the Union County Health Department earlier this month to schedule vaccinations for staff who are 50 and older. That’s almost 2,000 of the district’s 5,000 employees, according to UCPS spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte.

In mid-January, North Carolina changed its priority list to put people 65 and older ahead of younger frontline workers, including teachers and support staff. Stalberte said the district and the health department agreed to stick with the plan that had already been laid out for school staff.

The health department in Monroe is hosting a two-day vaccine clinic for school staff who are 50 and up. Vaccines aren’t mandatory, and Stalberte said about half of the eligible employees made appointments.

Union County schools are holding in-person classes for students despite high levels of COVID-19 in the community. Elementary students attend four days a week, and middle and high school students attend two days.

Different Strategies In ISS, CMS

Iredell-Statesville Schools is working with Iredell Health Systems to vaccinate school district employees who are 65 and older at a drive-through clinic Saturday.

Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees have asked the district to help get them vaccinated before students return to classes, but district officials say that may not be practical.

Superintendent Earnest Winston said providing "early and equitable appointments" for all staff who interact with students is a top priority. But he noted that Mecklenburg health officials say all their available appointments are booked through the first three weeks of February with people who are currently eligible. That includes health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities and people 65 and older.

CMS is slated to start returning students to classes Feb. 15.

Winston said the county health department doesn't have the authority to override state priorities.

Chief School Performance Officer Kathy Elling urged CMS employees to get pre-screened by their health care providers so they'll be ready to claim appointments when they're eligible.

"It's a delicate balance between the amount of vaccine that we are currently getting into the community and how quickly we can administer it," Elling said. "We're talking with our partners to provide as quick access to the vaccine for teachers and our forward-facing staff as quickly as we possibly can."

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.