Greg Ulmer said being able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine brought him peace of mind.
Ulmer, a Grand Island Senior High theater teacher, was one of 190 staff members from GISH, Intra House and Success Academy who received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Friday in the west gym at GISH. He said that, because he and his fellow staff members have been exposed to a number of students every school day since August, the vaccine brought him a sense of security.
“Quite honestly, since last March, I got tired of every time I would wake up not quite feeling very well, wondering and questioning if I have it (COVID-19),” Ulmer said. “It was really strange because I had weird dreams about this last night after I found out I was getting it. I don’t know if I was subconscious, if I was worried or what, but it is nice to know that the process hopefully now is getting going and that we can be moving past all this.”
Ulmer said he experienced no pain from the vaccine shot and that it was “just like getting a flu shot.”
More doses became available
Teresa Anderson, health director for the Central District Health Department, told The Independent earlier this week that it would be 5½ months before educators in the Central District would be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
So what changed in four days? The number of doses available for distribution, Anderson said.
After distributing its allotment of vaccines to individuals in high-risk groups, Anderson said CDHD realized it had 400 remaining doses it needed to use by the end of the week.
“So at 4 p.m. yesterday (Thursday) we made a call to the schools because we need to move those doses; we don’t want to have any left. Plus, they expire,” she said. “We needed to get them used and we knew the schools have been very eager to get their doses. So we said, ‘OK, let’s work on the schools.’”
GIPS Associate Superintendent Robin Dexter said Anderson called the school district Thursday evening and asked them whether staffers could quickly pull together a vaccination clinic. She said it was organized and an email was sent to GISH, Intra House and Success Academy staff members letting them know they would be able to receive vaccine Friday.
“This represents another step taken by the district — with the assistance of the CDHD — to ensure our staff is provided every resource necessary during the pandemic and beyond,” said GIPS Superintendent Tawana Grover. “We thank CDHD for its assistance in keeping our community as safe as it can be.”
Anderson said staff members from every school district within the Central District were vaccinated Friday.
“We contacted all the schools late yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and said, ‘OK, we have the vaccine and here are how many folks you are allowed to bring and let me know if you got this message,’” she said. “We heard back from nearly all of them.”
Vaccinations. then a short wait
Those receiving a vaccination filled out some forms beforehand and had to wait on the bleachers in the west gym for 15 minutes after getting the shot to monitor for any potential reactions.
Northwest High School Principal Tim Krupicka said staff members from the high school and the Northwest Public Schools feeder schools received the COVID-19 vaccine Friday. He said he was thankful to CDHD and GIPS for hosting the vaccination clinic.
“This whole year, with the roadblocks thrown our way and how we dealt with it, you never want to have something this serious happen again. But it is amazing what you can learn from how come you come out the other side from it.”
Krupicka said he was vaccinated Friday, which was something he had been looking forward to “for a long time.”
“I personally did not have any hesitancy at all about getting the vaccine. I know some people may have, but at my age, it was an advantageous thing for me to be able to do this,” he said.
Krupicka said the COVID-19 shot was less painful than flu shots he has received throughout the years.
“I have gotten several flu shots where I have had more immediate pain. I am not feeling any pain right now,” he said, shortly after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. “It doesn’t mean that it won’t develop, but right now it seems like I am doing OK.”
A step forward
GISH Principal Jeff Gilbertson said the vaccination clinic was a historic day not only for his staff, but also for everyone in central Nebraska.
“For us to have this opportunity not only for our amazing staff here at GISH, but teachers in Central District, it is awesome. What it means to me is it is another step closer to our target of staying in school until May 21,” he said. “Our students can be rest assured that our teachers are vaccinated and will be in the classroom helping them learn everyday.”
GIPS lead nurse Chris Vrooman said the vaccinations will help students stay in school through May. She said GIPS school nurses previously had received the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and were able to share their experiences, along with other reliable information, with staff members through email before the clinic was announced.
“As a pandemic team, we worked together and found some information that was reliable and good for our teachers to have,” Vrooman said. “We shared that out for them in different ways through email and on our (district) website. We really tried to encourage them to get the vaccine.”
GIPS Board of Education President Bonnie Hinkle said the vaccinations means the school district is “one more step in getting us back to where we want to be.”
“We are so grateful to the teachers for everything they have done to help keep school open this year,” she said. “But knowing there is that added protection for teachers is very relieving to all of us. Hopefully, things will turn around, more vaccines will become available and we can get all teachers done sooner rather than later.”
“If we are going to keep kids in school, we’ve got to get our staff vaccinated,” she said.
The second dose
Anderson said if CDHD has vaccines left, they will administer more vaccinations to school staff members in the Central District. She added the health department still is working to figure out how it will give school staff members the second dose of the vaccine.
“One of the things we know is that the 21-day period is not set in stone,” Anderson said. “You cannot have it earlier than 21 days, but you can have it later. So it could be that if we have vaccine next week and we are able to do another 400, then we will have to figure out what is possible.”