ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County School District employees and others considered to be essential workers will be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations through a new program at Flagler Health+ in St. Augustine.
This week, the hospital said it is giving a portion of its vaccine allotment to first responders and other essential workers in alignment with federal government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for vaccine distribution.
St. Johns County sheriff’s deputies, community-based health care clinic employees, St. Johns County School District staff age 65 and older, and other at-risk essential workers are all eligible for the vaccine, the hospital said.
“Setting a priority to protect our law enforcement, at-risk school district employees, and area healthcare workers was determined to be the best use of resources at this time,” commented Flagler Health+ President and CEO Jason Barrett. “We know the general public is anxious to receive vaccines. We have applied to receive more and stand at the ready to help vaccinate the broader community should we have the opportunity.”
Flagler Health+ said it received 1,950 vaccines in late December and has vaccinated close to 1,300 employees and area physicians. The second doses came in on Tuesday.
This week, the hospital said it is focused on administering internal second doses and beginning community-based first doses, which will total more than 2,000 doses.
“We appreciate the community partnership that we have with Flagler Health+ and all that they do for our county,” St. Johns County Sherriff Rob Hardwick said in a news release. “Our men and women are on the forefront of this pandemic every day. We are thankful Flagler Health+ has included us in their vaccination rollout and we are pleased to work with them in getting a portion of our personnel vaccinated.”
School district employees were scheduled to get the vaccine Thursday and Friday and another round will be scheduled for Feb. 4 and 5.
“To know that our dedicated employees over the age of 65, who have continued to serve our children throughout this pandemic, now have this added layer of protection is incredibly gratifying,” St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson.
The president of the St. Johns County teachers union said it’s a positive step in the right direction.
“Teachers and all educators are essential workers, we are part of keeping the economy going by keeping kids in school so that parents don’t have to keep them home and work themselves. And so that we can continue their education and not have to rely on substitutes as much. So it is of the utmost importance that our educators get vaccinated,” SJEA President Michelle Dillon said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said teachers and school staff should not expect to be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine, saying people 65 and older come first.
“This is based on data, and if you look at the COVID mortality, 65 and up represents over 80% of the COVID related mortality in our country and our state, so that’s where we’ve got to focus,” DeSantis said last week.
Educators 65 and older and school employees in medically vulnerable populations can get the vaccine, but the state’s largest association for teachers is calling for signatures for a petition to tell the governor to ensure all educators get priority.
“The CDC says that we’re essential workers, I know that educators are essential workers, and it’s a shame that Governor dissent just doesn’t follow the CDC recommendations,” Dillon said.
The St. Johns County School District said it is beginning to work on possible future opportunities for the rest of its 65 and older employees who are interested once there are vaccines available. Once DeSantis allows for an expansion as to who can be vaccinated, the district said it will work on additional opportunities.
The Flagler Health+ vaccination clinics, staffed by internal employees and credentialed volunteers are able to vaccinate approximately 400 to 600 people per day. Vaccines currently being administered are manufactured by Pfizer, which can only be stored onsite due to temperature requirements. For updates regarding St. Johns County’s COVID-19 vaccination program, visit www.sjcfl.us/coronavirusvaccinations or text SJCVACCINE to 888777.