How Elmhurst District 205 secured vaccine access for its workforce

While school systems of similar size are struggling to secure COVID-19 vaccines for their teachers, Elmhurst Unit District 205 has been able to inoculate its workforce at a faster pace.

More than 50% of employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to informal data gathered by the district. Staff members are not required to report whether they have been vaccinated, a district spokeswoman said Feb. 15.

In other DuPage County districts, teachers are still waiting for their shots amid tight supplies, resulting in an uneven distribution of vaccines for educators who are eligible in the second wave of inoculations.

Districts are tasked with finding a provider to administer shots. Edward-Elmhurst Health vaccinated the majority of the staff in District 205.

A doctor from DuPage Medical Group helped the district coordinate the vaccination effort with Edward-Elmhurst, Superintendent David Moyer said.

“What the hospital said was that they were going to use our district as the trial run to figure out a way to coordinate all of these mass vaccinations,” Moyer said.

After the immunization program was already set up, another provider – Metro Infectious Disease Consultants – approached the district with an offer to distribute about 380 doses to people who qualified, Moyer said. There was no charge for the vaccines, the district spokeswoman said.

“Again, it was another local doctor who knew that we were working hard to try to get our teachers vaccinated and get the kids back in school,” Moyer said. “But we have 1,400 people. The 380 vaccines would not have gotten all of our people vaccinated. It would have been a start had we had no other options.”

The Burr Ridge-based provider supplied the vaccines Feb. 11 at an appointment-only clinic in the York High School auditorium.

“What it did do for us is it gave us the opportunity to get all of the people that didn’t get in at the hospital,” Moyer said. “And then we just tried to work with other local districts and other local entities that were facing similar issues.”

The district offered vaccine appointments at the clinic to educators in neighboring Villa Park and Salt Creek school districts, as well as to Elmhurst Park District employees who work with kids in day care programming.

A Daily Herald letter to the editor questioned why relatives of district employees were given access to the vaccine when members of the public, especially the elderly, have had trouble scheduling appointments. People who belong to a Facebook group for parents of York High School students reported seeing nonemployees getting the shots.

Moyer said there was “a random number” of leftover slots available and it wasn’t conducive to try to partner with another school district.

“There were some random doses left, and we were trying to get people vaccinated,” he said. “Some of those people were family members of our employees because that was the quickest way to get the ... information out there to people to use them up.”

According to district spokesman Beverly Redmond, shots were given only to people who fall in the Phase 1a and 1b categories of eligibility. Medical providers oversaw the process, she said.

“Similar to other professions, our educators have relatives who are in groups 1a or 1b. If one of our educators had a relative who was in group 1a or 1b who needed a vaccination and we had space, then we were able to provide it,” Redmond said.

Moyer said officials have talked with Metro Infectious Disease Consultants about operating another vaccination center.