CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Teachers, students and families are already thinking ahead to what the next school year will look like. COVID-19 vaccines give hope that it could be a more “normal” school year.
From the start, many teachers, school staff members and the organizations that represent them were pushing to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom full time. That urgency is now showing in vaccination rates among school staff.
“What it says to us is that our staff really cares about being present with our students,” Mychal Frost, a representative for the school district, said.
That's a vaccination rate of 60%, a rate that's been hard to reach on the county and state level.
Frost said they recognized their staff wanted the vaccine and helped make resources available to them with help from community partners.
“They recognize that if and when they're fully vaccinated, they're not completely eliminating the risk of exposure, but they are ensuring that if they are exposed by being fully vaccinated, they're still able to come to work and provide the services that they enjoy doing,” Frost said.
Other districts are having success too.
Watauga County Schools get an A, 90% of the staff is fully vaccinated. At least two-thirds of the staff in Iredell-Statesville Schools have gotten the shot. Around 60% have in Union and Chesterfield County Schools. Fort Mill Schools has 44% and Burke County Schools has 42% of its staff protected against COVID-19.
All these numbers could be slightly higher because staff members are not required in most situations to disclose if they’ve been vaccinated.
This comes at the same time as reports the FDA could soon authorize emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine in kids ages 12 to 15. In its trials, Pfizer found the vaccine is even more effective in this age group than it is in adults.
The timing is right, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids make up 22% of all new COVID-19 cases in the last week. It's showing in some of our local school districts.
“We’re seeing a tick upwards among our students testing positive and in turn having to be quarantined and isolated,” Frost said.
Part of that is because more and more adults have the protection of the vaccine. Rock Hill Schools is not requiring but recommending that students 16-years-old and older get educated on the vaccines and consider getting them.
"We’re just encouraging everyone to do what they believe is right but keep in mind decisions that we make as individuals have an impact on those around us and that we continue to be vigilant,” Frost said.
There are the same concerns already voiced by many that these vaccines were developed too quickly. In reality, experts say the science has been around for some time and because of the desperate need to combat the virus, the resources were available to get it done.
“They’re not in the business of putting stuff out there willy nilly and hoping it works. That’s just not the way it happens,” Dr. David Priest with Novant Health said. “That's not a good business strategy, it's not a good public health strategy, not a good ethical strategy. So, these are the same correct safety steps taken through this process.”
None of the districts in the area are requiring the shots for teachers.
CMS officials say because it’s a personal choice, they haven't asked staff members to report to them and don’t have information on vaccination rates to share.
Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.