CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the date the district planned to start vaccinations, which was Feb. 6. WCPO regrets the error.
CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools announced on Monday that, because the Cincinnati Health Department has already received the first supply of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for Cincinnati Public Schools employees, staff for the district can begin receiving their shots nine days earlier than previously planned.
The Pfizer vaccinations will be given out starting Thursday, Jan. 28. The district previously planned to begin vaccinations on Feb. 6.
“I believe we're among the first to get the vaccine because we're a district that's ready in terms of logistics and partnerships with health care professionals," said Superintendent Laura Mitchell at a CPS health and safety meeting Monday.
Assistant Superintendent Susan Bunte said this week could see vaccinations for 2,000 CPS employees through the Cincinnati Health Department.
The district said employees will be sent instructions for vaccine registration by email, beginning with those who fall into what the district has identified as Group A.
According to a press release from the district, Group A includes:
- Teachers and paraprofessionals in preschool, kindergarten and grades 1-3 classrooms
- Teachers and paraprofessionals in specialized classrooms from preschool to grade 12
- Paraprofessionals in a one-on-one setting
- Nap aides
- Related service providers
- Custodians and building engineers
After Group A employees receive their vaccines, the district will move on to Group B, which includes all other school-based employees. The final group, Group C, consists of employees based at the Education Center and Iowa Street, bus drivers, and any CPS employees who missed the first two weeks of administration and want to be vaccinated.
Those in the district's Group A will be able to receive their vaccinations at Mt. Airy School from 3:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, vaccines will be administered at the Duke Energy Convention Center from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Mitchell also said Hamilton County secured a grant which will help teachers when returning to in-person learning.
"They’ll be able to do RAPID testing in our schools for the adults," she said.
CPS announced last week it would transition back to a blended learning model, with Pre-K through third grade starting next Monday.
Julie Sellers, the president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, had hoped for a few more weeks to make sure staff could have both vaccine doses instead of just one, especially as Hamilton County remains purple on Ohio's virus alert map for "severe exposure and spread" of coronavirus.
"They have great anxiety," Sellers said of staff preparing to return to in-person service next week. "They’re fearful, traumatized. They’re worried about what’s going to happen not just with them, but with their families, children at school.”
During the district's health and safety meeting Monday, officials reported a survey of close to 4,000 staff showed about 3,000 were interested in receiving a vaccine, while 600 said they were not. About 400 said they needed more information.
Sellers is concerned about vaccine effectiveness after one dose; according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Pfizer vaccine has proven 52% effective against the virus after the first dose. Cincinnati teachers will not be able to get a second dose until three weeks later, a dose which would bring the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19 to 95%.
“By not really having public meetings, and meeting with the people who are the frontline workers, and thinking through all of this -- there's unintended consequences that we're going to see, and we have concerns about that,” she said.
That includes having enough substitute teachers standing by if educators become ill. Since May, CPS has detected 511 staff cases from in-school transmission.
“The number of subs resigning from the district is far greater than the number of subs they’re hiring," according to Sellers. "I’m not really confident there will be enough employees to cover every single classroom.”
The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers has now filed a grievance against the CPS Board of Education, and Sellers said they have a meeting with the district Tuesday to discuss.
“Hopefully, we get an expedited process because it's health and safety,” she said. “We'll see what happens with the courts if that's necessary after that.”