MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Teachers and staff in Middletown City Schools were among the first educators in Ohio to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, a few days ahead of Governor Mike DeWine's projected timeline.
After preparing for months, the City of Middletown Health Department and Middletown City Schools were able to vaccinate 500 staff and teachers from the school district.
"You do not have time to wait for things to kind of happen," said Jackie Phillips Carter, health commissioner for the City of Middletown Health Department. "You have to be strategic and start planning ahead of time. So we were ready to roll."
When they received enough vaccines from the state, the district decided to move quickly to administer the vaccines, becoming the first district in Ohio to do so.
"First, last, doesn't matter," said Marlon Styles, Middletown City Schools superintendent. "For us, it's about making sure our staff feel safe while they come to school each day. They're on the frontline and educators across the state are giving it everything they've got every single day for students."
On Tuesday, DeWine said the state was a few days ahead of the anticipated February vaccine rollout for some schools. Cincinnati Public Schools announced they plan to vaccinate staff two days early, on Thursday instead of Feb. 1.
A list of districts included in the state's first round of distribution lists 38 schools in Butler County, but CPS is the only district listed for Hamilton County, and other counties in the Greater Cincinnati region have been left off the list entirely.
"This is a scheduling, by and large a scheduling issue," said DeWine during a press conference on Tuesday. "We're juggling. I'll be honest with you. We're juggling."
DeWine said a limited supply of the vaccines means the state will have to distribute it to different schools periodically, but he said every school staff member in the state should be able to get their first shot of the vaccine before the end of February.
"The excitement that we are wanting to get our kids back five days a week," said Michelle Peterson, principal of Creekview Elementary School. "I think there are perceptions sometimes with the hybrid but we want to have our kids in the building."
Middletown schools are currently in a hybrid model and some teachers said the current safety protocols are a good line of defense against COVID-19, but they see the vaccine as adding yet another important layer.
DeWine said all school districts in Ohio should be able to find out by Friday when the state plans to provide the vaccine to their region so they can plan ahead.