By: Madison Fugate
For a large number of the general population, they hope this recently introduced vaccination will help end the pandemic and lead to a path of normalcy once again in the future. For the Powell County Schools administration and other leaders in the community, they simply wish this “shot of hope” will allow students the opportunity to return back to the classrooms. That is why February 3rd, 4th, and 5th marked such a significant event for the faculty of Powell County Schools. On these days, there were three rounds of the Moderna vaccine (COVID Vaccine) delivered for the administration to Powell County Schools employees. According to Powell County Health Department Director, Stacy Crase, the Moderna vaccination is delivered in groups of 100. Crase also explained that the decision to administer 300 doses of the vaccine was according to a survey that was presented to PCS staff members earlier that helped indicate who would be willing to take the vaccine if presented the opportunity. The vaccine is free. When inquiring Crase as to whether or not there was enough vaccines to cover all of the PCS employees who wanted the vaccine, she insisted there indeed was enough for each employee who wanted the vaccine to get one.
There was approximately 285 PCS employees willing and ready to participate in receiving a vaccine, any remaining vaccines would then be administered to anyone 70 or older currently eligible for the vaccine according to Governor Beshear’s COVID Vaccine Plan. Under the governor’s plan, Phase 1B consists of K-12 personnel and anyone 70 or older. There is currently a long waiting list for Powell County residents 70 and older and this will be the focus for PCHD in the next few weeks. According to these local health officials, each vial contains 10 doses of the vaccine, but occasionally some vials may include more of the vaccine. These extra doses have been nicknamed “angel doses” and help these community leaders administer even more of the vaccine. After “angel doses” were accounted for in addition to the original number of 300 doses, there was all together 316 Powell County Schools staff and community members vaccinated by the end of the three days.
For small and rural communities such as Powell County, at times resources can be limited in comparison to larger cities. In most cities, the local health departments were able to administer the vaccine on larger scales or larger franchised pharmacies would have the opportunity to do so. Fortunately for Powell County, the leaders in this community were able to explore other relationships that could be depended upon to effectively administer this large amount of doses. According to PCHD Director, Stacy Crase, “Our Kentucky Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack, wanted to give options to health departments that did not feel like they had the capacity to also vaccinate the school systems. He set up a pharmacy program using Kroger and Walmart pharmacies as an option, but also told health department directors to let him know if you have another option in mind. With Sterling Healthcare having a presence in our schools already, it seemed like the perfect fit. They agreed to help out and Dr. Stack approved the plan.” Sterling Health offers school based health centers inside of each Powell County school that is staffed with an APRN and a medical assistant. Sterling Health Care School Based Health Coordinator, Jennifer Hager, describes these centers as providing care for all students and staff ranging from sick/acute visits to physicals and/or vaccines.
Coordinator, Jennifer Hager, was happy to step up and be a part of the contribution to make this collaboration possible, just as PCHD Director, Stacy Crase, was eager for the dependable service and assistance. Hager explains that due to the limited staffing at the local health department and their need to continue contact tracing for active COVID cases as well as vaccine administration to the other 70 and older population, the collaboration was formed between Sterling Health and Powell County Health Department. After the three days of administering the vaccine had concluded, Hager summarized the event as being successful due to teamwork and adequate planning. Hager goes on to say, “Beginning with help at the state level, planning sessions with Powell County Health Department Director, Stacy Crase, and Superintendent, Dr. Anthony Orr, hard work from Powell County School nurses and our own school based health team, we were able to safely vaccinate over 300 Powell County residents. We would also like to thank Powell County EMS for being at the event each day to ensure the safety of those vaccinated. What most of us have learned through the COVID-19 pandemic is that it takes all of us doing our part to get us ‘back to normal.’ The vaccine is just another step to getting our students back into the buildings and able to learn in a safe environment.” In order to control the environment and offer the safest experience for those participating in the vaccine, there were stations organized in order to follow social distancing guidelines. Participants were also asked to register online prior to the event. “Many participants commented on how easy it was to get vaccinated,” Hager stated.
After 28 days, a boost of the Moderna vaccine will be given to those who participated. For the PCS staff and community members who participated in this said event, their boost doses are expected to ship out the week of March 1st. The event will be located at the PCHS gymnasium once again. Participants vaccinated in Round 1 will be contacted by Powell County Schools for their next appointment time. In light of the outcome, PCHD Director, Stacy Crase, summarized the experience in these words, “I am grateful to Sterling Health and Powell County Schools for their collaboration in this effort since it would have been extremely difficult for our small staff to add this project into our workload. I am also happy that so many school employees decided to be vaccinated.” On February 8th, Superintendent, Dr. Anthony Orr, made the announcement to begin the planning for students to return to in-person learning once again beginning February 22nd. More details of the said plans can be found via a link posted to the Powell County Schools’ social media.