Area educators start navigating a challenging vaccine process

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New York State opened its vaccine registration site for those New Yorkers in phase 1B today, and many North Salem residents who are educational workers scheduled or attempted to schedule their vaccination. A good number of those lucky enough to secure an appointment will need to travel to the Westchester County Center, thirty miles away from North Salem, to be vaccinated.

Heather DiPaola, a special education teacher at Blind Brook-Rye UFSD, is scheduled to receive her first vaccination on February 1 at the Westchester County Center. She found the registration process easy to navigate, though she had trouble finding an available vaccination site. “The only ones that had appointments were the County Center and some in the Bronx.” DiPaola said that colleagues of hers who had already had their appointments faced long wait times, ranging from 90 minutes to three hours. DiPaola will be required to take a sick day in order to receive her vaccination.

North Salem Central School District (NSCSD) staff will also need to take a sick day in order to receive their vaccine. Superintendent Ken Freeston said, "many are making appointments for after school, evenings and weekends, and notifying their principals about their appointments so that we can measure the coverage needed."

Jennifer Barnett, a technologist at the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, booked an appointment after several attempts. “I had to click the link several times and be patient. Eventually an appointment time opened up and I grabbed it.” Barnett scheduled her shot for Wednesday, January 20 at the Westchester County Center. “I chose 5PM because I already feel so guilty about the lack of time that I’m able to spend physically in my school building,” she said.

Barnett has had to rearrange her work schedule throughout the school year to be home for her 4th and 2nd grade children, who have not attended PQ in person in over a month due to ongoing closures.

Karen Horel, a school psychologist employed within the New York City Department of Education (DOE), found that there were no available appointments near her school in East Harlem, or in the Bronx. Horel’s sister, a speech therapist with the DOE in Brooklyn, had a similar experience. Once Horel is able to secure an appointment, she will be able to go during work hours without being penalized.

The vaccine registration site does not include an option to schedule the necessary second dose. “I’m assuming I have to do that after,” said DiPaola. “I’m not sure.”

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