A shot towards normalcy

Millard employees receive their COVID-19 vaccine at mass weekend clinics


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Kleeman

Nurses prepare to distribute vaccines at Millard North High School. In the last couple of weeks, thousands of school educators and staff have been vaccinated at weekend clinics.

Emma Baker, Catalyst Editor-in-Chief

They say a big journey starts with a small step, and in dealing with COVID-19, every step counts. For educators and school staff in the area, the latest step forward in combating the virus has come by mass vaccination clinics on Saturdays and Sundays.

This past weekend marked a particularly significant milestone: all Millard employees that wanted a vaccine have received, at minimum, their first shot, along with thousands of others from schools around Douglas County.

In Millard, employees were part of a two-tier plan: Tier One was for the people working in the schools and interacting directly with students; Tier Two was for those in the district support buildings. From there, priority was given in age order, oldest to youngest. Employees received emails that informed them of their eligibility and gave them more information on when and where to go. 

Library para Rainbow Dark went to Millard North High School on March 6 and left with both her Johnson and Johnson vaccine and a good impression.

“There were no lines — it was the slickest thing ever,” Dark said “I walked right up, got right in, talked to three different people for registration, and then got the shot and sat for 15 minutes to make sure there were no side effects.”

A general consensus of pride and relief seems to be shared by many educators. Tim Royers, the Millard Education Association president and former West teacher, attributes the success of the clinics to a combined effort. The Douglas County Health Department, teachers unions, local government officials, an influx of Johnson and Johnson vaccines and even President Joseph R. Biden’s call to move teachers up on the list made the vaccinations possible.

“We were looking at maybe starting the teacher vaccinations in the second half of March, probably April, [and] now, we’ll be done before we’re even halfway through March,” Royers said. “So by that metric alone, this has been a huge success. As far as what it means — I think it was a needed demonstration of the community’s commitment to protecting it’s educators and acknowledging what they put themselves through this year, teaching throughout the pandemic. You had countless teachers in tears this past weekend — tears of joy, tears of relief — it meant so much to them.”

Math teacher Gwen Fox looks forward to what this means for the students, as well. Like many other teachers, she got vaccinated at the old Super Saver, rather than Millard North.

“I think with as many people that are getting vaccinated — whether its teachers, staff, families — everyone is kind of breathing a sigh of relief,” Fox said. “They’re just feeling better about their workplace environment, home environment or being out in public.”

At school, a more specific concern is hopefully being squashed for good.

“There is less risk of all of the sudden one day having so many teachers out that we can’t hold school, that there just isn’t enough staff to educate students,” nurse Jamie Matson said. “I think that is going to be a big game changer for us. At the beginning of the school year, I really had our doubts that we would be able to pull this off, but within a month, two months, it was obvious: we were safer inside our four walls than we were outside our four walls.”

Now, with teachers and staff vaccinated, further protection has been added to schools and a weight has been lifted off the shoulders of many. Those with underlying health conditions, like Dark who is diabetic and English teacher Dr. Beth Rips, who experienced respiratory failure last spring, are grateful for this light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment.

“We’ve waited months and months for it,” Rips said. “I don’t think anybody really feels that their life is threatened because they haven’t gotten a flu vaccine yet, and so because this [COVID-19] is life threatening, it just made the waiting that much harder. I don’t think any of us have ever experienced something like this in our lifetimes.”

While life nowadays is anything but precedented, the mass vaccination clinics managed to operate as smoothly as possible, leading to great success. This step towards “normalcy” in schools proves to be a definite step forward for all: students, teachers and the community alike.

Math teacher Gwen Fox holds up the card for her next dose of the Pfizer vaccine. “Millard is hoping, after this weekend, to have had everyone have their first shot,” Fox said. “I feel like we are making headway, and that’s a good feeling.” (Photo courtesy of Gwen Fox)