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After being offered to health care workers, educators in Jefferson County receive coronavirus vaccine

While educators are deemed essential personnel, they are not in Phase 1A of the state's vaccination program.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Iowa — Unused COVID-19 vaccine doses from Jefferson County Public Health have been given to school counselors in the Fairfield Community School District over the winter break holiday, officials confirmed to Local 5.

Right now, only health care workers and long term care residents and staff are included in the Phase 1A group to get the vaccine in Iowa. 

According to a social worker for the Fairfield school district, Jefferson County's health department reached out to agencies and providers that provide in-home services after they had several remaining doses of the vaccine. 

District leaders were asked if they wanted the extra doses for their school counselors and at-risk coordinators, as they provide services and supports to students in their homes.

"The vaccines were only provided to us due to the face-to-face in-home supports that we provide," Matt Smith, a social worker with the district, said.

Jay Thompson, whose wife is a teacher, was included in that group of counselors and coordinators who received the vaccine. But he didn't know at the time if the process was fair or not.

"When we were getting shots, we were concerned about that," Thompson said. "Is it going to be months before our teachers get it?

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Local public health leaders in Iowa told Local 5 that isn't how the process is supposed to work, but said local public health departments have the power to determine where the vaccines go.

The vaccines are distributed by the state to the departments. 

Those public health leaders the vaccines to give area hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities.

Educators are among the next group to get the vaccine (1B), but that could be a while, seeing as health care workers in many parts of the state have yet to be vaccinated.

Jefferson County Public Health did not provide a comment to Local 5 for this story. 

Sarah Ekstrand with the Iowa Department of Public Health told Local 5 the state has not activated Phase 1B. 

"We do not know why this teacher was vaccinated and are unable to monitor the justification for every vaccine administered. We are asking all vaccine providers who have been allocated vaccine to maintain efforts focused on Phase 1A populations to ensure our healthcare system is protected as we continue to respond to the pandemic," Ekstrand said in an email to Local 5. 

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