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Some Union County Public School employees skipping ahead and getting the COVID-19 vaccine

The health department received approval to continue vaccination for about 1,000 employees who signed up.

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — A controversy surrounding a local school district, whose teachers are the first in the Charlotte-area to get vaccinated.

As WCNC Charlotte has been reporting, state and CDC guidelines put health care workers first in line, followed by people 65 years or older. But some Union County employees who don't fall into those two categories are getting vaccinated anyway. 

"I'm glad that I'm working for Union County Public Schools, to have this opportunity I think I'll be feeling a lot safer when I get out now," said 51-year-old UCPS tutor, Revina Kashyap.

Union County Public Schools say they worked with the Union County Public Health Department to develop a plan to vaccinate school employees who are 50 years and older on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23. 

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According to the school, it's a deal they made before the state's new distribution plan was put in place on Jan. 14. 

Union County Spokesperson, Kathryn Brown, says the health department received approval to continue vaccination for about 1,000 employees who signed up.

Outside of the event, Union County Public Health is following the state's current group prioritizations, which puts teachers in Group 3. 

Any Union County educator who wasn't able to get an appointment for the event will now have to wait until the state gives the green light to Group 3.

High school teacher, Jennifer Comer got the vaccine Friday. She's 52 years old with asthma. Comer has empathy for her colleagues that may not be able to get a shot in their arm for awhile. 

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"I wish that everyone that wanted to vaccine could get it now... obviously I'm very lucky to be a recipient since I am over 50," Comer said. "I do hope that they will be able to start and get other employees vaccinated that would like to." 

Catie Armstrong, Press Assistant for NC Department of Health and Human Services sent WCNC Charlotte this statement in response: 

To save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19, independent state and federal public health advisory committees recommend first protecting health care workers, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Currently, health care workers with in-person patient contact (Group 1), long-term care staff and residents (Group 1) and anyone 65 and older (Group 2) are eligible to be vaccinated. Because vaccine supplies are limited, states need to vaccinate people in groups. Teachers who are under the age of 65 are included in Group 3 as frontline essential workers. To ensure equitable access to vaccines, vaccine providers need to act intentionally to reach underserved and historically marginalized populations in each active group (1 and 2). Some counties have already scheduled clinics for front line essential workers, including teachers, based on the prior prioritization, and they were told honor those prior appointments and then focus on the current prioritization group.

More information about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in North Carolina can be found here.