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Teachers await vaccine rollout

Cindy Edwards, lead nurse for Beaufort County Schools, hopes the school system will be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines to its educators within the next several months.

Edwards says patience is key until that time comes.

“I would love to see an influx of vaccine late spring, early summer,” Edwards told the Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday.

North Carolina is currently administering vaccines to people who are covered in the first two groups of its five-phase vaccination plan. Group 3 will cover frontline essential workers such as educators. Locally, the timeline for transitioning from Group 2 to Group 3 depends on how many vaccine doses the state allots to Beaufort County on a weekly basis.

“When we do get the vaccine — hopefully it’ll be this school year — the nurses will come around to the schools, so you won’t have to wait in line to get your shot,” Edwards said.

The school system will make sure that its most at-risk employees are among the first in line to be vaccinated when doses start arriving.  In the sign-up process for vaccinations, the district has been asking teachers if they have two or more health issues, and if they’re over 50 years old. That information will help determine which teachers are prioritized.

“I would encourage anybody that wants to try to get it in another county, go for it,” Edwards said. “We can take you off the list if you can get it in another county.

School board member Terry Williams said giving teachers their opportunity to be vaccinated is critical, especially in light of Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent push for all North Carolina school districts to offer in-person classes.

“All of the parents want students back in,” Williams said. “Everybody wants students back in. I want them back in. But until we can offer vaccinations to our teachers, whether they take it or not, I’m not going to talk to them about it. If we can’t protect our teachers, this just keeps on going. “

“It’s a hard situation,” Edwards responded. “There’s no good answer.”

Chairwoman Carolyn Waker said she heard some teachers were hesitant about committing to being vaccinated when the school system first opened its sign-up process, but they changed their mind after seeing people not have reactions to the vaccine.

“And that’s something that the nurses are all constantly talking about, just like we talked about the flu vaccine,” Edwards said.