School district press release claimed doses were given to other teachers
YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Yuma County on Friday responded to claims by the Gadsden Elementary School District (GESD) that health officials canceled a coronavirus vaccine clinic planned for its teachers.
In a statement released Wednesday, GESD wrote:
"Yuma County Health Department has informed Gadsden Elementary School District 32 that the February 24, 2021 vaccine distribution has been cancelled. Priority has been given to Yuma Union High School for the second dose. We have been notified by the Yuma County Superintendent office that GESD is tentatively scheduled for early March no specific date has been set."- GESD Press Release dated February 17, 2021
Late Friday afternoon, the county administator, its health director, and its school superintendent responded to GESD's claims, saying the press release "resulted in misinformation about vaccine clinics and the prioritization of doses when it comes to area educators in Yuma County."
In a statement, the Yuma County Public Health District (YCPHD) said it never scheduled a vaccine clinic for the school district, nor did it discuss scheduling a clinic specifically for its teachers.
The county said it did have a mass vaccination clinic scheduled for February 24th and 25th, but it said, it was only for those needing their second dose. YCPHD said the Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) staff scheduled for shots, were also in need of their second dose. Appointments on this date were specifically blocked out to accomodate second doses for YUHSD.
YCPHD noted, due to a shortage of vaccine, and the delayed delivery of doses, the status of all scheduled vaccine clinics remains in question.
"For nearly a month I have been working with State Representative Tim Dunn, Director Diana Gomez and all of the school districts to facilitate vaccines to teachers," explains Tom Tyree, Yuma County School Superintendent. "As we have explained in all of our communications, the distribution of vaccine is very fluid and we always ask everyone for their patience. No vaccine clinic was communicated to GESD 32 for a specific date. I will continue to communicate with them as to the time for teachers there to receive their vaccine. I appreciate everyone’s cooperation as we work through this fluid process."
YCPHD said it has worked to ensure equitable access to testing. It said it has also provided PPE, testing supplies, and rapid tests to clinical partners, community agencies, and schools, both public and private. Health officials said they've also provided information, training, and technical help to these groups.
Yuma County Health Director Diana Gomez said Friday she cannot allow misinformation to leave the impression that the health district would give preferential treatment to one school over another.
"I was born and raised in Yuma County, primarily South County, and I graduated from Gadsden Elementary School," said Gomez. "Yuma County is truly my community. I share the goal of making sure that teachers and support staff receive their vaccine as an added strategy in reopening our schools safely. In all communities, but especially in rural communities, schools provide a vital safety net for children."
Gomez said she realizes how eager the public is to get a coronavirus vaccine. She said she's encouraged by the high interest. However, she urges people to realize, at this time, demand continues to far outweigh supply. The county will schedule future vaccination clinics as the doses become available.