Approximately 2,600 Arlington ISD teachers, administrators, staff and substitute teachers received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Monday at the city's Esports Stadium and Expo Center.
School buses arrived at the Arlington Esports Stadium from campuses across the district, carrying teachers and other staff. They were spirited as they arrived, you'd think they won the lottery and in some respects they did.
"It's been a long time coming, we work with kindergarteners and they don't have to wear masks, we felt like we needed to do our duty and get the shot to protect our kids," teacher Chelsea Harris said.
"I had COVID over the summer and I don't wanna get it again. I want to protect everyone around me not only myself," teacher Valerie Malone said.
The vaccinations were made possible by a partnership with the Arlington Fire Department. All of the estimated 10,000 district employees were eligible to get the vaccine if they had not already been vaccinated. The district projects more the 50% of their teachers received a shot Monday.
Employees are allowed time off to get their vaccines if needed.
The district started working with the Arlington Fire Department months ago, planning how to pull off a mass vaccination event like this for staff, just in case.
"It's the opportunity to get your shot in one day, in one-day dose, and make sure all employees have that opportunity today," Arlington ISD Superintendent Dr. Marcello Cavazos said.
Teachers, school staffers and child care personnel are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas' DSHS said they notified all vaccine providers they should immediately include school employees and child care workers in their vaccine administration.
The state's decision comes after the DSHS received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directing states to expand eligibility to include people who work in school and child care operations, including teachers and school staff.
Because they had been preparing for the announcement ahead of time, all the Arlington ISD had to do was "flip the switch."
The federal directive defined the people eligible as, “those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.”
This action does not change the other groups prioritized for vaccination in Texas.
The DSHS said vaccine providers are encouraged to continue their efforts to vaccinate older adults since the burden of COVID-19 falls most severely on people age 65 and older.