Teachers excited for a more normal school year after receiving COVID-19 vaccine

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Ascension Wisconsin plans to vaccinate 5,000 educators in Southeast Wisconsin in a partnership with local public health departments. At their St. Joseph Hospital location in Milwaukee, more than 300 vaccines were administered in the last two days.

Bryanna VanVreede, a fifth-grade teacher who works at St. Joseph Catholic School in Wauwatosa, says it’s something she’s been looking forward to after a hard year.

“It feels really good, it’s been a long year, we’ve been in school in person, so it’s kind of nice to feel that start to the extra protection,” said VanVreede.

Other educators say it’s been a long time coming.

“We’re waiting like is it time yet? Is it time yet? I mean all through February, when can we go? When can we get it?” said Kimberly Fisher, principal at Christ St. Peter Lutheran School. “It’s just going to add an extra security for myself and for my staff.”

“It felt just like the flu shot,” VanVreede says. “Pretty simple and pretty easy.”

The Ascension St. Joseph vaccine clinic is immunizing educators from Milwaukee area choice, charter and parochial schools. They’ve expanded their hours and days to accommodate for teachers, and the location hopes to vaccinate more than 500 by the end of the week.  

“It warms my heart to see these teachers come in here to get vaccinated and that we can contribute in a small way to them getting vaccines,” said Dr. O’Rell Williams, vice president of medical affairs at Ascension Wisconsin St. Joseph Hospital.

For teachers, it’s been hard to not be able to interact with students the way they want to.

“Kids are their lifeblood, and so interactions with the kids have been tough, that distancing and mitigation has been really hard,” Fisher adds.

"They need the kind of a little bit more of a normal life and back to school,” said VanVreede. “So it’s nice to feel a little bit more protected and know we’re doing our part.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said Thursday they’re referring schools to follow CDC guidance on ways they can reopen, but say research shows overall low transmission in schools. 

“Student to student transmission within classroom settings and student to teacher transmission are all fairly low,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary at Wisconsin Department of Health Services.   

“We have to do it safely, right? We have to protect our teachers, because many of them are in the age category that they’re more vulnerable to succumb to COVID-19,” said Dr. Williams.

The Wisconsin DHS says by the end of March, every teacher would have gotten their first dose, and their second dose by mid to late April. 

Teachers say vaccinations will help to allow for a more normal school environment, and it’s something they can’t wait for.

“I know it’ll be a slow process, but you know the more we can each do, the better it’ll be,” adds VanVreede.

“Being able to see them face-to-face 100 percent of the time is going to be great,” Fisher says.

The Wisconsin DHS says right now, vaccine manufacturers are doing trials with the younger population and they’re hopeful by the end of this year they may see authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine in some school-aged kids.

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