WACO, Texas — Nurses and doctors with Ascension Providence teamed up with representatives of Waco ISD to hand out hundreds of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to teachers and staff who qualify under Phases 1A and 1B of the state's distribution plan.
The clinic was held Saturday morning in the gymnasiums at University High School in Waco. Representatives from Ascension Providence said they planned to give out around 400 doses of the vaccine.
"We think it's important to keep our schools open and keep our teachers and students and district personnel safe," said Richard Haskett, Chief Medical Officer of Ascension Medical Group Waco, said.
During 2020, one of the main issues plaguing Waco ISD involved keeping teachers in classrooms. In December alone, the district closed six different campuses because of a lack of teachers.
Several teachers were forced to miss more than a week due to either COVID exposure or contact tracing measures.
"During the day, I get busy and don't think about it too much," University High School Athletic Trainer Jerry Williams said. "But the threat is there all the time for anyone in public, especially classroom teachers."
Williams was one of the staff members to get his first dose of the vaccine Saturday.
"I have seen tears of joy this morning, lots of happy faces and just a staff that is tremendously grateful," Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said.
Kincannon said the clinic is a big step toward ensuring teachers can stay in the classroom for the rest of the school year. She said the district estimates more than 500 staff members qualify under the state's current guidelines. In a press release, Ascension Providence estimated the number is close to 650.
"This is a huge step for our employees to be protected from COVID-19 so we can keep them in the classroom," Kincannon said.
Larry Curtis, the principal at the G.W. Wiley Opportunity Center in Waco also got his first dose of the vaccine at the clinic. He said the whole process, including the required wait time to check for symptoms, took less than 20 minutes.
Curtis says getting the shot is the first step toward feeling confidence interacting with students in the classroom.
He is also looking forward to spending more time with his four-week-old granddaughter.
"Actually, when I took the shot, she was on my mind," Curtis said. "I wanted to make sure I was healthy around her. I hope she will not have to go through what we're going through now."
Ascension Providence will also team up with Midway ISD Thursday to hold a clinic for their teachers and staff. They estimate 350 faculty and staff qualify from hat district.
In total, Ascension Providence expects to give out more than 1,000 doses by the time both clinics are finished.