Teachers and staff of the Monroe County School System received their vaccinations Saturday at the former Hiwassee College.
The vaccination services were provided via a drive-through, allowing for faster service.
Monroe County Health Department Director Teresa Harrill stated that she was thrilled with the turnout for those who arrived to receive their vaccinations.
“We have been working with School Director DeAnna McClendon and School Health Coordinator Jackie Gray,” Harrill said. “Our plan was to do a mass vaccination for the Monroe County teachers and this was what we decided to do, go off site (from the health department) to Hiwassee College. The new owners were so accommodating and partnered with us and, as you can see, this location is perfect.”
She noted the flow of traffic from the drive-through vaccinations was moving exceptionally well.
“We have a partnership with Hiwassee Bruderhof (the new owners of the former college site), with our local EMA, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, school nurses, they are all helping us vaccinate which is freeing up our staff that is drawing up the vaccine,” Harrill noted. “It is a good community-wide partnership. The department of health has been encouraging us to go off site so that we could go back to our normal services, so this was our first off site in Monroe County and I am thrilled that it is going excellent and that is because of all of the partners that help make this happen.”
Harrill noted they will continue to use the site for future vaccinations.
“This location has a tent and they have graciously allowed us to keep up the tent, at least through May, and then we will evaluate,” she stated. “I really appreciate the community partners and I am glad that the teachers are getting vaccinated because I know they have been very anxious about it. I also want to say that Dr. McClendon has been awesome to work with to get this set up.”
McClendon noted they originally postponed reopening the schools in January under the assumption the schools’ staff members would have been able to receive their vaccinations then.
“I think of my teachers as frontline essential workers and there is a teacher shortage, so you want to make sure that you can make your teachers feel safe and feel comfortable coming to school,” she said. “We know that children can carry viruses and have mild to no symptoms, but an adult can get those same contagions and become very sick ... that is why it was such a big push and such a big desire to make sure that all of our employees receive the vaccine.”
She expressed her excitement for the vaccination day that recently passed.
“The day went great,” she noted. “It was very smooth, waits were not very long and it was just really exciting for our teachers in Monroe County to become vaccinated and to feel safer and more comfortable and confident in school.”
McClendon noted that around 400 staff members arrived Saturday to receive their vaccinations out of 731 total staff members.
Gray also delivered her thoughts on the vaccination that took place on Saturday.
“We were able to vaccinate a total of 390 people in a four hour time span Saturday morning,” Gray said. “About 200 of those were our faculty and staff.”
She noted the schools have another day set up to vaccinate more faculty and staff for the schools.
“March 12 will be our next day,” she noted. “We have several already scheduled for that day and we are super excited to have this done for them.”
She also stressed the positives that come from the vaccinations once the recipients have received all of their doses.
“Fewer people will have to quarantine after they have had a close contact exposure,” she said. “We will still wear masks and do things that we would typically do to protect ourselves, but eventually we will no longer have to wear masks as the vaccines become more common and the pandemic begins to fade.”
She expressed her gratitude to Harrill and the Monroe County Health Department for their work.
“They organized and coordinated the effort for Saturday and I think because of their hard work it went very well,” Gray expressed. “It was a collaborative effort between our school nurses, the health department nurses, Sweetwater Hospital nurses, National Guard, EMS, and Bruderhoff who allowed us to use their campus and that space allowed it to flow very efficiently. It was just a great day.”