Since March 3, Texas teachers and childcare workers have been eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This decision was made when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expanded the Phase 1A and 1B vaccination groups to include school workers. After the Texas Department of State Health Services met, Dr. John Hellerstedt, the department’s commissioner, sent a letter to all vaccine providers in the state and informed them of the change. According to the Texas Education Agency, this change will add an estimate of around 719,000 people who are eligible to receive their shots.
Upper school French and Arabic teacher Laila Kharrat was able to receive her first vaccine shot on March 5 after the announcement was made.
“As a teacher, it was hard waiting all of January and February to get it when people were already getting it,” Kharrat said. “Back in August, they told us we were first responders, and of course for students’ emotional health and for parents to be able to go back to work, the necessity for us to be in person was so great that we were called first responders. I love teaching in person, and I love being face to face, I would 100 percent choose this over an online option, but it was definitely hard for me having to wait. I wish I could have had the shot in January or February.”
Kharrat received her first shot of the Moderna vaccine through the Allen Fire Department and is programmed to receive her second dose on April 2.
“It was so easy, I picked up my kids from school, drove up to the stadium and I pulled into the lot,” Kharrat said. “The guy who gave me my shot was so nice and even let me take pictures and videos. I was so proud and so happy I had finally gotten my shot. My arm definitely hurt the next day. I did have to take some Tylenol and Advil on the second day, but by the third day, I didn’t take any and my arm felt back to normal.”
Similar to Kharrat, upper school English teacher Tolly Salz was able to get her first shot after Texas made the change.
“It is actually a funny story,” Salz said. “I was trying to sign up, and it was just a nightmare, and I could never get anywhere through the website. A good friend of mine was on several waiting lists and was finally able to get off of one and get her vaccine. She was still on another waitlist and said ‘come with me,’ so I went with her late that night, and they still had vaccines available. When I got up there, they had extra doses, and I posted it on Facebook and then Mrs. Rossiter called me suddenly and said, ‘Wait a minute, how did you get it?’”
After economics and history teacher and senior class dean Caryn Rossiter learned of the extra doses from Salz, she got in her car and met Salz and got her first shot.
For Salz and Rossiter it was an emotional moment.
“We were both sitting there crying afterwards because it was emotional knowing I could do my job in a way that feels so incredible,” Salz said. “As teachers, I think we were so emotional because [getting vaccinated] allowed us to breathe a little bit.”
For teachers, receiving the vaccine took a lot of pressure off. Salz remembers how hard it was when the school went remote last March.
“I knew it was odd for the kids and hard, but for the teachers it was really hard,” Salz said. “We love being with kids, we love having you in the classroom and seeing your eyes and your faces. So to not have that energy or collective group was very hard, not just because of the teaching aspect but just the community we have here.”
On March 23, Texas announced that all adults in Texas will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine on March 29. The announcement was made by the state, and explained that this change would apply to all adults over the age 16. Pfizer’s vaccine is at the moment the only vaccine that has been approved for people 16 and older. Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is available for those 18 and up. Texas is now part of the group of states including Alaska, Mississippi and Arizona who have opened up vaccinations to the general public.
According to a March 28 poll of 144 students, 96 percent think it is good that Texas has opened up COVID-19 vaccines for adults ages 16 and up, and 70 percent of students plan to be vaccinated.
“I think it’s good that vaccines are becoming available to those 16 and up soon because it’s going to bring us one step closer to getting out of this,” junior Erika Batson said. “I’m glad the people who really needed it had a chance to get it first and others were prioritized, so I think it’s a positive step moving towards everyone being vaccinated.”
“We’re trying to keep everyone safe,” Salz said. “So knowing that I could get a vaccine that would prevent me from being hospitalized, that would prevent me from getting so sick that I couldn’t teach, that would prevent me from spreading something unintentionally and not have that extra layer of fear has been amazing.”