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Catholic schoolteachers receive the COVID-19 vaccine

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About half of the teachers at St. Theresa School in Ashburn have appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the next few days, said school nurse Ioanna Sanborn. From what she’s heard, everyone is excited to experience a quick pinch of pain for the protection the vaccine provides against a virus that has upended their lives. Many more Catholic school teachers are right behind them.


For the past several weeks, Virginia has been distributing vaccines beginning with those most vulnerable to exposure and those who have a higher risk of dying from the virus. Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities were the first priority. Now, Virginia is in Phase 1b, and many more are eligible to receive the vaccine, including people 65 and older, first responders, the homeless, prison inmates and teachers.


Vaccines are being distributed by county, and the Loudoun Department of Health has been slow to get teachers vaccinated, said Sanborn. But with help from the diocese, interested St. Theresa teachers will be vaccinated at Inova Fairfax Hospital soon. At St. Mark School in Vienna, located in Fairfax County, more than half of the school’s teachers already have been vaccinated at Inova, said school nurse Erin Philippart. “And if they haven’t gotten it yet, they’re getting it this week,” she said.


“Everyone’s very excited,” said Philippart. “There were some nerves. Even I had some nerves, but I think we have to be part of the solution and lead by example. (Teachers) want this to end. I think we’re blessed we were able to get it so quickly.”


Overall, the St. Mark teachers were pleased with the vaccination experience, said Philippart. “If you are in the 1b group, there’s a spot where you check that box and sign up online for an appointment,” said Philippart, who as a nurse was able to get the Moderna vaccine Jan. 5 and was scheduled to get her second dose in a few days. “(Teachers have) said when they go for their appointment, they don’t wait more than 15 minutes. They’re in and out.”


However in Philippart’s experience, firm details about how fully vaccinated people should act remains elusive. “I went asking some questions that folks had here, like if you were fully vaccinated and you came into contact with someone who had COVID, do you need to quarantine for 14 days?” she said. “I must’ve asked five people and they were all like, ‘That’s a really good question.’ Nobody knew the answer because we don’t have the information yet.”


Both Sanborn and Philippart believe that even if most of their school staff gets vaccinated, many of the prevention protocols will remain in place until the end of the school year. “I think we’re going to have to take the same protocols we’ve been taking for a while until we figure out if this is working,” said Philippart. “Until the numbers go down and people aren't getting as sick, things don’t change.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021