School nurses in Philadelphia receive COVID-19 vaccine prior to students' return next month

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The School District of Philadelphia is partnering with the city to begin vaccinating school nurses before the youngest students return to the classroom next month.

More than 330 school nurses chose to be vaccinated Friday.

They're getting shots at a mass vaccination clinic set up at Lincoln High School in Northeast Philadelphia.

City officials say nurses are not required to receive the vaccine before returning to schools, but most of them chose to get the first dose.

"They can be ambassadors to let their friends and families know when they are eligible, it is safe to be vaccinated," said Philadelphia Councilman Bobby Henon.

SEE ALSO: SEE ALSO: City Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Interest Sign-Up

This next step in the process is especially important as pre-K through 2nd graders are getting ready to return to the classes in February.

Shannon Smith, head nurse of the Philadelphia school district, was first in line to set an example.

"I almost had a tear in my eye when it happened because this has been long coming," Smith said. "We love our children. The fact that we haven't seen them in all this time, we haven't laid eyes on them, especially the most vulnerable children; we're thrilled to have this opportunity to move toward normalcy of some sort."

Health officials say the vaccine is one of many layers required to beat the virus.

"This is just one of the many other things we are all doing right now, like wearing masks, staying six feet from each other and going about our way in a very way and limiting our interactions in our community," said Dr. Barbara Klock, Medical Officer of Philadelphia Schools.

Additional health care workers across our region are continuing to receive the vaccine during Phase 1a, but it's a waiting game on how to move forward in many areas, including Chester and Montgomery counties.

SEE ALSO: Track COVID-19 vaccine availability and progress across Pennsylvania
They're backed up as more groups are being added to Phase 1a, such as those over 65 and people 16 to 64 with certain medical conditions.

County officials said there just isn't enough vaccine to go around and that they're overwhelmed with people requesting appointments.

"Some phone lines are crashing. Some websites are crashing and we can't speed this up until vaccine comes," said Jeanne Casner, Director of Chester County Health Department.

"We have a lot of people whose expectation was that they would be able to vaccinated soon and, unfortunately, I am sorry to say that is just not the case," said Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh.

In Camden County, New Jersey, officials say they plan on opening more clinics in coming weeks.
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Officials in Camden County are aiming to vaccinate 1,000 people each day starting next week.

A major goal there is to reach Black and Latino communities hit hardest by COVID-19.

SEE ALSO: Track COVID-19 vaccine availability and progress across New Jersey

Like other counties, Philadelphia has created a new website where people can register their interest in getting the vaccine.
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