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Onslow County vaccinating some teachers ahead of state guidance

Educators fall in Phase 2 of North Carolina’s vaccination rollout plan. Onslow County is vaccinating teachers who have filled gaps in the school system for the vaccination effort.
Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 7:21 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Some teachers in Eastern North Carolina have found themselves eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, despite not falling into the state’s current active phases.

About 200 educators in Onslow County, some eligible because of age or other employment in healthcare, have received or registered for the vaccine, according to county officials.

“It’s exciting to know that this is going to help us get the kids back in with us 100% of the time,” said Michelle Taylor, an Onslow County educator who got her first dose of the vaccine Wednesday.

Last week, Onslow County teachers got an email saying they would soon be eligible to register for the vaccine. County officials said it was offered to teachers who filled gaps caused by school personnel who were helping with the vaccine effort.

“School employees who are involved in the staffing changes to help us with vaccinations,” said Onslow County Manager Sharon Russell.

Taylor and at least two other educators who are registered to get the vaccine this week, said that that didn’t apply to them.

It’s weeks before state health officials estimate they’ll be prepared to move on to phase two of vaccinations, the phase educators, as essential workers, are eligible for the vaccine as part of the state guidance. Right now, per state guidance, only healthcare workers and people 65 and older are eligible to get the vaccine.

It comes as other counties in our area have struggled to get their already-eligible population their shots.

“Educators in Wake County and across North Carolina know and want our kids to be back in schools as soon as possible,” said Kristin Beller, the President of the Wake County Association of Educators. “There is a process that’s happening, and what we’re looking forward to and the work that we’re engaging in is how do we speed up that process.”

It’s part of an effort, county officials say, to get their vaccine allocations to as many people as quickly as possible, without running the risk of running dry altogether.

“They have changed the phases a few times, and we are hearing messaging from the state this week, that in order for us to receive vaccination doses, it is imperative that we use every drop of vaccine that’s available in the county,” said Russell. “Finding folks to vaccinate as quickly as possible is a big priority in the state of North Carolina right now.”

It’s a welcome and hopeful sign for teachers like Taylor who are anxious to get their children back in classrooms as soon as they can.

“We miss them a lot,” said Taylor. “It’s different.”

WITN News contacted the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for comment on this story, but has not heard back.

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