Fred Jerman, a one-on-one paraprofessional at Fredericksburg’s Hugh Mercer Elementary School, rolled up his sleeve with a big smile on his face.
He was one of several hundred Fredericksburg City Public Schools employees who went to the Fredericksburg Expo Center on Friday morning to start receiving Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m really excited and grateful,” Jerman said. “I did not expect to be able to get the vaccine so quickly. I’m so glad the health department made this available.”
City students who want to participate in a hybrid virtual and in-person learning program return to school buildings on Tuesday, and Jerman said he’s happy teachers have the opportunity to get the first dose of the vaccine before then.
He also said he feels it’s important for him, as a Black man, to be a role model for getting the vaccine.
“I’ve talked to a lot of Blacks and they have a lot of mistrust,” Jerman said. “It’s important to be a good example.”
Teachers and child care workers are in priority group 1b to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Matthew Eberhardt, interim deputy superintendent for Fredericksburg City Public Schools, also received the first dose of the vaccine at the clinic held by the Rappahannock Area Health District on Friday morning. He said the division is “excited that we got in early to be able to get our employees vaccinated.”
He said 391 employees responded to a survey sent out earlier in January about participating in RAHD’s vaccination clinic, and that he anticipates 600 staff members will be vaccinated in the next few weeks.
Teachers and employees with other area school divisions are also starting the vaccination process.
Stafford and Spotsylvania county school employees are scheduling their vaccination appointments with Mary Washington Hospital, according to division spokespeople. Caroline County schools spokesperson Jose Diaz said about 65 percent of the division’s workforce has signed up for a vaccination appointment.
Connie Orgeron, a French teacher at James Monroe High School, said she felt “wonderful” about getting the first dose of the vaccine Friday morning. She said she has been approved to teach virtually because of her husband’s medical condition, but is hoping that the vaccine will mean she can return to teaching in-person.
“I would prefer to be with the students,” she said.
Linda Lam, who works in the front office at Lafayette Upper Elementary School, said though she has confidence in the division’s COVID-19 mitigation procedures, getting vaccinated eases her concerns about having students return to school buildings next week.
She said staff will continue to wear masks and practice social distancing and hygiene.
RAHD spokesperson Mary Chamberlin said those who receive the first dose of the vaccine will achieve 50 percent immunity from COVID-19 within two weeks.
Those receiving the Moderna vaccine must return for a second dose in four weeks, she said, and wait an additional few weeks before 95 percent immunity is achieved.
Shelby Murray, a fourth-grade teacher at Lafayette Upper Elementary School, said getting the vaccine helps her feel more confident in welcoming her students back to school next week.
“I cannot wait,” she said. “I wish I could hug them.”