Access to COVID-19 vaccine gives teachers, officers peace of mind

Starting Wednesday, Florida school employees, law enforcement officers, firefighters 50+ able to get COVID-19 shots

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – K-12 school employees, law enforcement officers and firefighters age 50 and older will be able to get COVID-19 vaccine shots starting Wednesday, according to an executive order signed Monday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Several teachers told News4Jax that they’ve been waiting for this moment. They said they go into school every day, thinking they’ll come in contact with someone who has the coronavirus, so they’re thankful the vaccine will help bring things back to normal in the classroom.

“The offer just came out in an email late this afternoon, so I do plan on signing up for it tomorrow,” educator Debra Jones told News4Jax on Tuesday.

More people in our community will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order stating that Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers who are 50 and older can get the vaccine. News4Jax Reporter Brie Isom joins us LIVE.

Jones teaches distance learning, but she still interacts with people in the building every day.

“I also do car duty and bus duty after school, so I’m at the facility, I’m in the classroom,” Jones said. “I still do interact with students daily.”

Jones said the vaccine gives her high hopes to one day teach her students in person.

“Hopefully, it’ll get rid of COVID, and we’ll all you know get back to normal life,” she said.

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY: Where to get COVID-19 shots in Northeast Florida

Duval County science teacher Michelle McGurr said she feels like she’s potentially exposed to the virus on a daily basis.

“Every week we get a new email saying we’ve got a new case in our school,” McGurr said. “I’ve been working face to face since August, and I’m worried. When am I going to get it?”

McGurr said she had been waiting for a while to finally get her COVID-19 vaccine until Sunday when she saw a social media post.

“Scrolling through Facebook I saw a post that said accepting teachers 50 or older at Regency, come with no appointment,” she said.

She said getting that first dose brought her to tears because trying to get a vaccine has been frustrating for her.

“We have to hear it by word of mouth. That’s just strange,” McGurr said. “There could have been a better way about doing these.”

McGurr said she tried to make sure her other coworkers also got the shot Sunday, but she’s thankful all of them will be able to get it beginning Wednesday.

“You don’t have to choose to put yourself in harm’s way,” she said. “I mean, I suppose I don’t have to go to work, but I do have to pay bills.”

Access to the vaccine is also giving law enforcement officers peace of mind.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Lt. Renee Graham said she deals with unexpected situations every day and could be exposed to the coronavirus.

“You don’t ever know what might happen there’s potential for anything that you’re going to be exposed,” she said. “I could be sitting at my desk and five minutes from now have to go answer a high-priority call and be in a situation that I didn’t think would happen this morning.”

Graham said the coronavirus has hit the Sheriff’s Office hard.

“We just had one of our bailiffs succumb to COVID last month, and we’ve had several people who have gotten sick and ended up in the hospital,” she said.

According to the public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, 58 people at the agency qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine now.

“It’ll reduce the stress a little bit,” Graham said. “Things go in waves. You won’t have anybody around you in a while that’s been exposed, and the next thing you know a coworker or friend has been exposed.”

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.