Indiana teachers nearing normalcy, jumping vaccination hurdles

Updated: Mar. 13, 2021 at 12:20 AM EST
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CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WAVE) - The vaccination process has been different for people in Southern Indiana, especially teachers.

Unlike in Kentucky, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb did not put teachers in the top priority group. The number of people most at risk were people still 65 and up, but now, teachers are finally catching a break and getting the vaccine.

”Huge relief is the (term) that keeps coming into my head, because that’s what it is,” said Justin Snelling, now at ease after getting his first vaccination shot on Wednesday. “You get to exhale finally.”

Before Wednesday, however, the 8th-grade science teacher felt that to do his job meant putting his life at risk, along with his family and his students at Charlestown Middle School.

”We’ve been teaching in person since July of last year,” Snelling said. “This has been something we’ve been struggling with for a while.”

Snelling and other southern Indiana teachers said they are concerned over contracting and/or spreading the virus while teaching in-person classes. Clark County has been operating in person, hybrid and online e-learning since last summer.

Snelling said that for as many years he’s spent as an educator, teaching the intricacies of science via Zoom wasn’t ever in his lesson plans. Snelling said the concept of teaching the way he knew is now a thing of the past.

Whichever learning mode students and families chose -- hybrid, online, in-person -- and with guidelines and social distancing, teachers were able to figure it all out.

The primary issue still looms for teachers who haven’t gotten vaccinated. In Indiana, people eligible for the vaccination are 50 years old and up or have serious underlying issues. The state’s reasoning: 93 percent of the state’s COVID-related deaths have involved people 65 and older, Floyd County Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Harris said. Those guidelines put in place are hurdles for teachers to leap over, all to get vaccinated.

The Biden administration announced about a week ago that teachers must be included in vaccination eligibility. Since then, many teachers throughout the state, including those in Floyd and Clark counties, have been scouring the big-box pharmacies for appointments. Federal partners, like Kroger, Walmart, Walgreens and CVS are allocated doses to give to the public.

”We’re having to play all the pharmacies’ websites against each other,” Snelling said. “(We look to see) who has the available appointments for the first and second dose. There are a lot of hurdles to jump through, but it’s nothing we’re not willing to do.”

As for Floyd County, state rules still apply. Next week, New Albany-Floyd County Schools will be returning to in-person learning, doing away with hybrid.

Clark County is still under a hybrid schedule until next school year.

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