Harris Regional, health department team up to vaccinate Jackson teachers

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Brittney Lofthouse-Cantributing Writer

Last week, schools in Jackson County dismissed early on Friday to allow all educators wanting to receive the COVID19 vaccine to be able to do so.

The vaccination clinic was conducted in collaboration with the Jackson County Department of Public Health and Harris Regional Hospital. 

North Carolina is currently vaccinating Group 2 of the vaccination rollout plan — which means healthcare workers and anyone 65 years or older can receive the vaccine. While the Jackson County Health Department is leading the community vaccination efforts in Jackson County, Harris Regional Hospital, like other hospitals in the state have received their own allotment of the vaccine. When the hospital completed the vaccination of hospital staff, they realized that they had additional doses available. 

“Last week, we were encouraged by the state to use up our remaining vaccine supply by today, [Monday, Jan. 25] or run the risk of it being transferred out of our community,” said Lucretia F. Stargell vice president of Professional Services for Harris Regional Hospital. “After consultation with the health department, we were able to coordinate with the school system to rapidly organize this vaccine clinic.”

Several factors went into the decision to vaccinate public educators in Jackson County, which according to Stargell included: 

• The school system had the right number of people for the amount of vaccine available to distribute;

• The school system was able to provide and set up the location for the event;

• The identified population could be quickly and efficiently mobilized to meet the timeline;

• As frontline essential workers, teachers, and other school system staff are high risk for exposure to COVID-19 in their work settings. 

“Vaccinating these individuals also protects our students, their parents, and families against COVID-19 and helps keep our schools open and operational,” said Stargell. “We appreciate the support and patience of our communities as we continue to follow federal and state guidance and partner with our local health departments on community vaccine distribution.”

While Jackson County and Swain County have both been able to vaccinate public educators, Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin informed the board of education Monday night that Macon County Public Health Director Kathy McGaha said that it is impossible to say when Macon County teachers will receive the vaccine. 

Teachers are listed in Group 3 of the state’s vaccine rollout— which was originally supposed to begin around the end of January in Macon County. However, due to vaccines being diverted to urban areas of the county this week for mass vaccination clinics, Macon County’s vaccine allotment was drastically decreased. 

While Harris Regional Hospital provided vaccines for the community event in Jackson County, McGaha told commissioners last week that the Macon County community has not received the same support from Angel Medical Center or Mission Health Systems. 

Over the weekend, a group in Highlands conducted a vaccination clinic that distributed nearly 500 vaccines — and AMC has vaccinated some of their frontline staff. As of Tuesday, Macon County had 230 vaccines on hand, with 2,273 vaccines administered so far.

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