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West Central Valley, Dowling Catholic to vaccinate staff Friday

West Central Valley and Dowling Catholic will dismiss class early on Friday to administer vaccines to staff members.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Two central Iowa schools will be closing early Friday for their staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19, a move that other districts are looking to follow. 

Starting this week, PreK-12 staff are eligible to be vaccinated for the coronavirus.

Dowling Catholic, located in West Des Moines, sent a letter to parents announcing class will dismiss at 1:15 p.m. for staff to be vaccinated. 

Nola Aigner Davis with the Polk County Health Department told Local 5 Dowling is working with UnityPoint Occupational Health to vaccinate staff. 

UnityPoint Health spokeswoman Macinzie McFarland said in a statement to Local 5 the company's top priority is to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

"Vaccine distribution and allocation is determined by federal, state, and county public health departments. We are currently working closely with local Public Health Departments to vaccinate individuals within Phase 1B including those 65 and older and school district employees," said McFarland.

Helen Eddy, director of Polk County Public Health, addressed the issue of UnityPoint Health's decision to assist Dowling Catholic in a board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

"Their decision to allocate those vaccines is their decision. We do not have any oversight of that other than to say "Are you vaccinating people appropriately in the tier?'" said Eddy.

Aigner Davis said all schools are free to contact occupational health and pharmacies for on-site clinics and that providers can use their vaccine allocations however they choose.

However, vaccine supply is limited and there is no guarantee that providers will be able to accommodate a school's request. 

Credit: WOI
Viewer-submitted screenshot details letter from Dowling Catholic President Dr. Dan Ryan on the school dismissing early for staff to be vaccinated.

Sarah Eckstrand with the Iowa Department of Public Health said the school had reached out to Polk County Public Health "some time ago with a strategy to implement planning for the vaccine clinic." 

"Polk County Public Health is focused on a wide geographic distribution of vaccines and ensuring clinics can administer a high volume of vaccines at once," Eckstrand said. 

Eckstrand also noted that other schools in Iowa are working on similar clinic plans and "will have final plans soon." 

Dowling Catholic Marketing and Communications Manager gave the following statement to Local 5 on the school's vaccine clinic: 

"We are pleased our teachers and staff will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on Friday, February 5, 2021. It is our understanding that UnityPoint health professionals will be administering the vaccine at our school in accordance with the state's vaccination distribution plan. 

While our teachers and students have remained in the classroom following all the precautions, we believe this vaccine provides an important safeguard. Our hope is that all our teachers and staff choose to be vaccinated because this is an important step in protecting the health and safety of our community. 

DCHS students will be dismissed early on Friday so teachers and staff can receive the vaccine."

Local 5 has reached out to UnityPoint for more information. 

West Central Valley Schools, located in Adair and Guthrie counties, will dismiss at 1:30 this Friday to administer vaccines to staff members. 

Local 5 has also reached out for more information on the district's staff vaccination plans. 

Local 5 is looking into other central Iowa districts to see if they will also be holding staff vaccination clinics. Check back for updates.