As COVID-19 vaccine availability becomes more accessible in the lower valley and steady delivery system measures to keep pace with Yakima Health District’s distribution efforts, the Sunnyside School District confirmed they are ready to host a public clinic when called upon.

Following Astria Sunnyside Hospital’s sponsored COVID-19 clinic, the first doses of 100 Moderna two-shot vaccinations were dispensed to district educators at the high school gym on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Administrators discovered a great deal about the coordinated efforts required for supporting the medical center’s integrated distribution plan during the initial event, officials said.

The experience gained from the trail run helped them better grasp the type of setting for efficient entrance and egress while establishing waiting time and space considerations for observing people after they’ve received the vaccinations.

“We learned about all these things that go into what we need to do and be prepared. And what is needed in our case by Astria in order to provide the vaccinations,” Superintendent Kevin McKay reported.

Yakima Emergency Management has officially requested the district to host a public or school employee clinic when vaccines become available, according to Kris Diddens, executive director of human resources.

“Of course, we said yes,” Diddens stated in an interview on Monday, Jan. 25. “We would host that clinic most likely at Lincoln gym.”

Located at 1110 S. 6th St., Lincoln gym is connected to the administration building and shares the parking lot adjacent to St. Joseph’s Church. The secure facility meets the essential prerequisites which could be utilized without impacting normal school operations and possibly accommodate a community vaccination center, McKay explained.

“We don’t have anything scheduled. It seems as though no one is quite sure when the vaccines will be available or where. So, we’re just kind of on standby for when we’re notified that they need our space of when they have more vaccinations for the district,” Diddens added.

Yakima County is in Phase B Tier 1 of the state’s vaccination plan. Eligibility requirements call for people 65 years or older and those 50 years or older who live in multi-generational households can receive the vaccine, alongside healthcare workers, first responders and residents and staff in long term care facilities.

The district is trying to follow the same Yakima Health District guidelines as they primarily targeted staff over 70 years of age, followed by those over 50 with health concerns in the first batch of 100 vaccines, which represented about 10% of the staff, the executive director said.

“We went with over 70 and then we went with over 50 the high-risk employees and employees who work with students, who cannot wear masks, such as special education students who receive speech services. Wearing a mask is not appropriate. So, those were our groups that we targeted in the first round,” Diddens explained.

There’s not yet a method established for tracking district personnel who may have received COVID-19 vaccinations elsewhere, she said. “We had lots of people interested in getting the vaccine.”

As a result of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process, the superintendent was able to assist other lower valley school districts with their staff and public health readiness strategies as they begin to hold clinics to Phase 1B-Tier 1 community members.

“We need to get some work done and we need to get prepared. We can’t determine when the next set of vaccines will be available, we know it’s coming soon and we want to be ready,” McKay.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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