LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some Jefferson County Public Schools employees are scrambling to schedule their second round of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Exactly how many remain without appointments for their COVID-19 vaccine boosters remains unclear. More than 13,000 JCPS employees and contractors signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim said Monday that those vaccinated through the city’s LouVax program before Feb. 1 were not automatically registered for second vaccination appointments, a problem exacerbated by a frustrating self-scheduling process. The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness transitioned to a digital scheduling and management system called Salesforce on that date, according to spokesperson Karl Bullock.
JCPS middle and high school staff received their initial COVID-19 vaccine doses during the week of Feb. 1, according to the district’s vaccination schedule. Employees in JCPS elementary schools, except for previously vaccinated school nurses, were the first district workers to begin the vaccination process at Broadbent Arena starting Jan. 22.
“The people I've heard from say that they did not have very much difficulty with first vaccination, but they are having significant difficulty with the second vaccination if they are in the group before Feb. 1,” McKim said, adding that he was told those vaccinated Feb. 1 and later should receive emails with follow-up vaccination dates
Some teachers have frequently checked for new available appointment dates without luck, he said.
The health department’s website lists all time slots, not just those available, for users hoping to schedule vaccination appointments, he said. If selected times aren’t available, users receive error messages, he said, noting his wife’s recent struggles in scheduling a vaccine booster appointment. Jo McKim works as a deeper learning resource teacher for JCPS.
“One person said that their spouse stayed up until 12:01 a.m. thinking maybe a bunch of them go on right at midnight,” Brent McKim said. “... Basically people have to just keep randomly trying and hoping.”
Those who must schedule their second vaccine appointments in Salesforce can only book up to three days in advance now, but the city is working to expand that to 10 days by late Tuesday, Bullock said.
“The goal is to be able to schedule 10 days out,” he said.
The city expects to complete the COVID-19 vaccination process for elementary and middle school teachers by March 2, Bullock said.
Renee Murphy, head of communications and community relations for JCPS, said the district and health department have talked about problems employees have faced when trying to schedule vaccine booster appointments.
McKim urged teachers who have not scheduled second vaccination appointments to monitor their email inboxes for updates from JCPS, and he said the health department could do more to help frustrated employees navigate its scheduling system.
“The health department really needs some human beings available for people to call, because if someone has tried it five or six or 12 times and it doesn't work, they need to talk to somebody that can tell them what's going on,” he said.
Friday will mark five weeks since the first elementary teachers and staff at JCPS received their initial shots of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which requires a four-week wait between doses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says second doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines can be administered up to six weeks after the first shot.
Data on the effectiveness of both vaccines past that window is limited, according to the CDC.
“If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series,” the agency wrote in vaccination guidance most recently updated on Feb. 10.
Teachers and school staff were included in the second wave of vaccine recipients in Kentucky by Gov. Andy Beshear's administration.
The Jefferson County Board of Education will ultimately decide if and when JCPS classrooms reopen during the 2020-21 school year.
Kentucky’s largest school district has offered remote instruction since April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State and city health officials have told the board that reopening JCPS schools would be safe with a combination of staff vaccinations and COVID-19 mitigation efforts, and the board is expected to hear more from medical experts about the latest CDC guidance for resuming in-person instruction during a work session Tuesday.
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