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Pasco schools set up weekend vaccinations for employees 50 and older

Hillsborough and Pinellas schools are working on similar plans.
The Pasco County school district has arranged for employees 50 and older to receive 2,500 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine this Saturday. The highly recommended second dose will be given out on April 2.
The Pasco County school district has arranged for employees 50 and older to receive 2,500 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine this Saturday. The highly recommended second dose will be given out on April 2. [ GENE J. PUSKAR | AP ]
Published Mar. 3
Updated Mar. 3

Pasco County school district officials got on the phone Monday, shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued his executive order to include school employees 50 and older on the eligibility list for COVID-19 vaccinations.

They called the local health department with one objective: to secure doses for the thousands of district employees born before March 1971.

“News flash,” superintendent Kurt Browning said Tuesday morning, interrupting the School Board’s meeting.

The district had secured 2,500 doses, he told the board, in addition to the 500 it had requested as second doses for workers 65 and older who had received their inoculations on Super Bowl Sunday.

After that, district spokesman Steve Hegarty said, it was off to the races to get a distribution plan in place. Spring break was fast approaching, and the administration didn’t want to wait until then.

It targeted Saturday.

In neighboring Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, school officials said Wednesday they also were looking for ways to get vaccines to their eligible employees.

“We have more than 10,000 employees who meet that threshold, and we’re working on finding locations,” superintendent Addison Davis said. Pinellas officials said they were working out details as well.

In Pasco, all eligible district workers — including substitutes and charter school employees — were sent emails Tuesday telling them they could sign up for a time slot at one of two locations between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Browning made a recording Wednesday morning to remind them to check their inboxes for the link.

By then, Hegarty said, more than 1,400 spots already had been claimed.

He said the district hoped things would run as smoothly as they did for the first round, also held at Gulf Middle School and Land O’Lakes High School.

Some employees will receive the Moderna vaccine, which will necessitate a second dose scheduled for April 2, an off day for the district. Others will receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

With the announcement came another round of calls for vaccinations for younger school workers, as well. The School Board has supported that concept, but it has not yet come to fruition.

President Biden has stressed the importance of getting shots for educators, and called on states to prioritize them.

When Florida takes that next step, Hegarty said, the district expects to cooperate again with the health department.