SPRINGDALE -- School District employees began receiving covid-19 vaccinations Wednesday.
Community Pharmacy staff, along with volunteer pharmacists, nursing students from the University of Arkansas and pharmacy students from University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest Regional Campus, administered the Pfizer vaccine, said Victoria Hennessey, owner and pharmacist at Community Pharmacy.
The vaccines were given at Springdale High School but were for any district employee who had signed up.
Kelli Caudle, English teacher at Springdale High School, said getting the vaccine was "quick and easy."
"I think it's what we all have to do to get back to living our lives the way we used to," she said.
The hardest part of teaching during the pandemic has been the disconnect with students, she said. Everyone has to wear masks, and students are often out because of quarantine.
"I have two classes of sophomores -- I don't even know what they look like," Caudle said.
The pandemic, however, has shown many students that they do want to be in school, she said.
Likewise, Springdale High School journalism teacher Susannah Swearingen said, "It's put a shadow over what we do."
Swearingen got vaccinated to protect herself and her students, she said. She added several of her colleagues have gotten sick with the virus.
Hennessey said 18 people were getting vaccinated every 10 minutes Wednesday. The pharmacy plans to host a similar event when the same people need the second dose of the vaccine in about 21 days.
The pharmacy plans to give a total of 1,300 doses to district employees at vaccination events Wednesday and today, Hennessey said.
Hennessey said she's glad for her profession to be a part of the covid-19 vaccine distribution and said independent pharmacies can quickly vaccinate a lot of people, as long as they have the vaccines.
"I thought to myself, 'Wow, a year ago I wasn't super concerned about covid. We were just starting to hear about it and here we are today vaccinating.' That's pretty incredible," she said.
The district planned to do 2,000 vaccinations this week, but canceled Friday's event because the pharmacy did not get as many vaccine doses as they requested, the district said earlier this week.
Kathy Launder, school nurse supervisor, said some staff members chose to wait and gave their appointments to others. The district allowed any school employee regardless of position or age to sign up. The district will schedule appointments for those who weren't able to get the vaccine this week as soon as more are available, she said.
Springdale Public Schools has 2,952 employees.
Likewise, Bentonville Public Schools planned to vaccinate 1,700 staff members this week but had to change plans because not as many vaccines were available as expected. The district canceled all appointments and asked staff to re-sign up, prioritizing staff who work directly with students and then by age. About 500 teachers will be vaccinated Friday, according to Leslee Wright, spokeswoman for the district.
Pharmacies across the state likely will continue to get between 30,000 and 50,000 doses each week, although they had expected to soon receive approximately double that each week, John Vinson, director of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, said Monday.
Rogers Public Schools plans to vaccinate 250 employees today, according to Ashley Siwiec, spokeswoman for the district. Priority was given to employees who are 62 and older and/or have underlying health conditions.
Fayetteville Public Schools hadn't planned any on-site vaccination events but sent staff an email letting them know they were eligible to receive the vaccine at local pharmacies.
Springdale, Bentonville and Rogers school districts had the most active covid-19 cases of any school districts in the state as of Monday with 168, 140 and 125 active cases, respectively, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Fayetteville had the ninth-most active cases with 52. The data includes students, staff and faculty.
Gentry Public Schools announced Wednesday some of its schools would temporarily pivot to online instruction because of the number of students, faculty and staff who have either tested positive for covid-19 or who are in quarantine.
Students in the primary school will have a two-day suspension of in-school instruction, and students in the high school will pivot to online instruction today and Friday.
Two groups in the state’s Phase 1-B started receiving the covid-19 vaccine Monday. Residents in those two groups include K-12, higher education and child care employees and all residents 70 years and older.