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Janesville District Employees Still On Track To Get COVID-19 Vaccine On Jan. 22

District's Thursday Announcement Met With Surprise From State, As Teachers Not Officially In Next Group For Shots

Syringes containing the COVID-19 vaccine are displayed
In this Jan. 6, 2021, photo, syringes containing the COVID-19 vaccine are displayed in Pompano Beach, Fla. The nation’s biggest immunization rollout in history is facing pushback from an unlikely source: health care workers who witnessed COVID-19′s devastation firsthand but are refusing shots in surprising numbers. Wilfredo Lee/AP Photos

The School District of Janesville is still anticipating that all of its school district employees will receive the coronavirus vaccine Friday, Jan. 22.

The district sent out a press release Thursday announcing there would be no school for students that Friday to allow time for the more than 1,300 teachers and other district staff to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state Department of Health Services (DHS) then noted teachers and school staff were not yet confirmed to be in the next group to get the vaccine.

However, Gov. Tony Evers noted in a Friday press briefing that the school district would likely be able to move forward.

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“I know they made that announcement in their community, and I think it’s going to be hard to undo that, frankly,” Evers said.

School District of Janesville communications officer Patrick Gasper said in an email Friday afternoon that, according to its communication with Mercyhealth, “the district is still on plan to receive vaccinations next week.”

Teachers and school staff have been discussed for inclusion in group 1b, the second group of people slated to receive the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, but the state has not finalized its recommendations for the group, or its exact timeline for that vaccine rollout. It’s possible the rollout will be further complicated by recent news that states will not be getting all of the vaccine doses they had anticipated.

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said Friday the state does not intend to wait until every eligible person in the first vaccination group, 1a, gets the shots before it begins to distribute vaccines to group 1b. DHS announced earlier this week it plans to get doses to first responders, who it says will be part of group 1b, Monday.

“What we’re really trying to do is cover certain populations first, and then move on to other populations, and that is what creates an equitable situation across the state,” Willems Van Dijk said. “If people have excess vaccine, we ask them to let us know and we’ll redistribute it to get to the appropriate population.”

Willems Van Dijk noted that all the state’s vaccine providers sign a contract with DHS and the federal government that dictate the terms of vaccine rollout. In its announcement to families, the Janesville school district said it had worked with vaccine distributor Mercyhealth to set aside Jan. 22 to get the first doses to its employees, and Friday, Feb. 12 for the follow-up doses.

According to a Friday morning press release, the Rock County Public Health Department is continuing to follow DHS recommendations for vaccine prioritization and is still in the process of vaccinating people in group 1a. The health department commented on its own Facebook post Thursday evening saying it was “looking into” the district news and that “this was not authorized, approved, or recommended by the Rock County Public Health Department.”

Another 30 teachers in the Lake Mills school district received the vaccine this week after the Jefferson County Health Department had extra doses from its rollout of shots for group 1a. The superintendent for the Milton School District, which neighbors Janesville, told the school board Monday he anticipated Milton teachers and staff would get their own shots within 30 days.