San Mateo County educators are beginning to have an easier time signing up for COVID-19 vaccines since they first became eligible — along with law enforcement officers and farmworkers — for vaccines on Feb. 22.
At first, it was easier for teachers already in classrooms to sign up to be vaccinated, since they were prioritized for county vaccination events.
"I think people are finding it easier now than in the past two weeks to get scheduled — there was a lot of confusion initially around the requirements in different counties, especially if you live in one and work in another," said Edith Salvatore, president of the Sequoia Union High School District’s teachers union. "Members said the first weeks were like the 'Hunger Games,' stalking websites and frantically refreshing to see if appointments were available. But now that both FEMA sites (Levi's Stadium and Oakland Coliseum) and all of the county sites are online, it seems to be going more smoothly."
The Sequoia district, which is slated to have teachers return to classrooms on April 5, has been able to offer around 55% of all staff the chance to be vaccinated through the San Mateo County Office of Education, said Interim Superintendent Crystal Leach in an email March 5. The district does not have the exact percentage of staff vaccinated available, but said it will be receiving vaccine priority access codes for staffers to use next week, she said.
The county has prioritized vaccinations for school staff working in person with students with the greatest needs and those from households with limited financial resources, those learning English and those who are homeless or in foster care. There are about 5,000 teachers employed countywide and the state has dedicated 10% of its vaccine supply to educators.
In local school districts with in-person instruction, most teachers and staff members have already received their first shots. These teachers, who returned to classrooms in the fall, had lobbied to get priority status.
All 450 of Menlo Park City School District's staff, substitute teachers and child care workers have been offered the opportunity to receive the vaccine, or schedule a vaccination appointment, said Parke Treadway, the district's public information officer in a March 4, email. Just 18 have yet to secure vaccination appointments and will do so within the next week, she said.
Some 84% of staff in the Portola Valley School District have received one or both of the doses, said Superintendent Roberta Zarea in a March 3 email.
By Sunday, 94% of staff will have been vaccinated with either the first or second dose. By the second week of April, 94% of staff will have both vaccines, according to Zarea.
"County Superintendent Nancy Magee and the superintendents of the 23 districts worked so hard to make this happen for our staff, and I could not be prouder or more relieved," said Zarea.
In the Las Lomitas Elementary School District, Superintendent Beth Polito said March 4 that about 80% of teachers and staff have gotten the vaccine (mostly first doses).
About 90% of Woodside Elementary School District staff members have received their first shots, said Superintendent Steve Frank.
Some 54 staff members participated in a vaccination event through the Office of Education and the county health department Feb. 24 at the Event Center. An additional 23 staff members were vaccinated through other opportunities for educators, he said.
The Office of Education sent out invitations to teachers and childcare workers to attend vaccination events at the San Mateo Event Center Friday, March 5, and Saturday, March 6, according to Patricia Love, executive director of strategy and communications. Kaiser Permanente is also holding special clinics for teachers from the priority list Saturday and Sunday, she said.
So far, the Office of Education has received 500 vaccine access codes from the state, Love said.
The city of San Francisco received access codes on March 2 after complaints from the San Francisco Unified School District administrators that city officials were not doing enough to help teachers access the vaccine, The Examiner reported.