"Vaccine scramble" for educators in Pima County

Current Count: Playing catch-up after a slowdown in vaccines for educators
Posted at 11:06 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 01:06:40-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Playing catch-up after a slowdown in education vaccinations.

A few weeks ago, districts had their vaccine allotments cut because of a computer system issue.

KGUN9 learned the system is fully automated and now the vaccine train is rolling along.

Two superintendents get us up to speed on the progress.

Vail District is the first in Pima County to go hybrid.

No surprise that the superintendent, John Carruth, is concerned about how fast his staff can get vaccinated. after a delay last month.

Like other district leaders, he wants to move beyond hybrid learning and return to traditional teaching by next school year.

"It's been incredibly important for us. An incredibly important issue for us," he said.

District leaders have repeatedly said the academic and financial impact is staggering so far.

Carruth and several districts report the Pima County health department has recently opened the vaccine door to all K-12 staff and not just at one vaccination site.

"That's a little bit of the vaccine scramble that's happening," Carruth said, "They're still limiting the number of slots that can go at any one time period to the UofA point of distribution."

"The train is moving. It was a slower start than expected," said Pima County Superintendent Dustin Williams, who gets updates from the Health Department.

He told KGUN9 the approximate COVID vaccine count as of Friday.

7,000 out of 25,000 staff in Pima County schools have received a shot in the arm. That's 28 percent.

Williams said, "It still has a lot of communication hurdles that are in there, but we're seeing the educators now start to get vaccinated."

Carruth said, "Overall though, as long as the flow remains similar to what it's been over the last 8 or 9 days, we should be in pretty good shape in the next couple of weeks."

He has advocated for Pima County to allow some school districts to handle and manage the vaccine rollout, similar to what's happening in Maricopa county.

"That was my preference," Carruth said, "I think that was the preference of a number of superintendents initially. All that said, the main priority for us is to make sure that we have timely vaccinations for our staff who want to be vaccinated."

At this point, he said, 30 percent of his staff have had at least the first vaccination.

Carruth said it's not easy to just flip the switch back to traditional learning and that will take time -- a reason both superintendents are pushing for more communication and collaboration from the health department.

So when will K-12 staff be finished with the vaccination process?

Williams said it's a tough question to answer right now.

"I've told everyone you could look as long as summer to get the entire thing finish. We would hope to see everyone done with at least their second shot by April if possible. Could be into May," he said.