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'We just want our kids back': Cincinnati teachers get first vaccine doses ahead of return to school

WCPO consuelo esteves.png
Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 19:20:44-05

CINCINNATI — Consuelo Esteves is excited for Tuesday, when she’ll see her Covedale School kindergarten class in person. It’ll be a relief, she said Thursday at the Cincinnati Public Schools vaccine clinic, not to have to teach them to read over video chat anymore.

“It's so hard through the camera to really engage in that,” she said. “That's my biggest thing, is I can't wait to get them in there.”

Esteves and about 400 other CPS workers got their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the district’s Thursday clinic, which began administering shots four days ahead of the statewide vaccination schedule. Pre-K through third-grade classes will be the first to return to in-person learning at CPS, with other age groups set to follow.

RELATED: Cincinnati Public Schools board president: Deciding when to return to classrooms 'no easy task'

The staff members who got their shot Thursday will return to the classroom with some protection — but not complete immunity — from COVID-19. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require patients to receive two doses to fortify their immune systems against the virus.

“I feel safer” with one shot than with none, Esteves said. “Ultimately, I wish all teachers could have both doses before coming back.”

But few across the state will. Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged as much in a news conference the same day. His return-to-school deadline of March 1, by which he hopes all Ohio districts will be conducting some in-person learning, will arrive with many teachers only partially vaccinated.

Speaking at DeWine’s new conference, Ohio Department of Health medical advisor Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said people who have received only one shot still have a robust immunity from COVID-19.

“I don’t want anyone to think that, for these vaccines, a single shot is enough — it’s not,” he said. “But I also want people to recognize that, within weeks of receiving that first shot, our bodies are mounting very substantial immunity.”

The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, a professional union for local educators, said 90% of surveyed members wanted to postpone in-person learning until March 1 or until staff are able to get both doses of the vaccine.

But the district is moving forward with its agreed-upon plan, which adds in-person classes for new groups and grade levels throughout the month February. Over 1,500 additional CPS staff members will receive their first shot in vaccine clinics on Friday and Saturday.

Angel Roddy, the principal of Mount Airy School, said she’s glad to see any progress after nearly a full year of being forced — repeatedly — to turn on a dime.

“Right now we see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “It’s not bright-bright yet, but we see the light. And you know what? Just having that light there gives us a renewed sense of hope. We just want our kids back.”