Clinical nurse Jesse Rideout sticks a syringe into a vial of COVID-19 vaccine before administering it. Photo by Vicente Vera.
Clinical nurse Jesse Rideout sticks a syringe into a vial of COVID-19 vaccine before administering it. Photo by Vicente Vera.

    Teachers and staff at an affluent South Bay school district can skip the line and get a COVID-19 vaccine — by pretending to be health care workers — at the behest of Good Samaritan Hospital, according to an email obtained by San José Spotlight.

    Teachers can’t get vaccines in Santa Clara County yet. The county is in the beginning part of Phase 1B, but it’s only vaccinating people 75 and older. Education and childcare workers come after health care workers and people 65 and older.

    But teachers at the Los Gatos Union School District don’t have to wait, their Superintendent Paul Johnson told them. They can get their vaccines now — at the behest of the hospital’s top leadership.

    The reason the teachers get to skip the line, Johnson said in the email, is because they helped raise money in the spring for meals for health care workers at Good Samaritan Hospital.

    “The COO of the hospital says we can access the appointments through here and has cleared LGUSD staff to sign up under the healthcare buttons,” Johnson wrote in the email to faculty and staff obtained by this news organization. “This is a wonderful gesture by our Good Sam neighbors and I encourage you to take advantage of this within the next few hours.”

    Johnson said in the email that the plan was approved by Good Samaritan’s chief operating officer. He said the hospital would “like to offer vaccines” to the school district because they have not forgotten the “kindness” of the staff raising money for meals for health care workers.

    In an interview with San José Spotlight, Johnson said it’s not a quid pro quo — and that Good Samaritan’s offer “is not connected” to the money the district raised.

    “My understanding is Good Sam was cleared for the next tier, so teachers didn’t jump in line,” Johnson said. “You would have to talk to Good Sam about offering to other districts outside of Los Gatos.”

    Sarah Sherwood, spokesperson for Good Samaritan Hospital, said that the hospital chose to offer vaccines to the Los Gatos teachers because the hospital had extra appointments one day.

    “We had some open time slots to fill and welcomed 65 Los Gatos teachers into the clinic to receive their vaccines, following county guidelines,” Sherwood said. “Now, with no additional open time slots, we need to continue to vaccinate the population of 75+.”

    Sherwood said the hospital is updating its website to make the vaccination schedule clearer.

    “It is our full intention to vaccinate as many people as possible,” Sherwood said. “It is our hope that we will be able to vaccinate many more in the near future.”

    According to the California Department of Public Health, counties can allocate vaccine doses “on the assumption that immunization will be accepted by some but not all who are offered the vaccine, and then continue to offer vaccinations in progressive priority tiers.”

    For example, the department says, if a county has maximized use of the vaccine to administer individuals in Phase 1A, they should move to Tier 1 of Phase 1B while continuing to offer vaccines to those in higher priority groups.

    “We are very grateful that Good Sam reached out to our district and offered to help our LGUSD staff (teachers and support staff) get vaccinated,” Johnson said. “Teachers are essential workers, and as we transition back to in-person instruction, we are thankful that they are able to have access to vaccines to protect the students and community.”

    Los Gatos schools have not resumed in-person classes. The district has plans to open once cases in Santa Clara County fall below 25 cases per 100,000 residents. According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, the county averaged 67 cases per 100,000 this week.

    Teachers won’t be required to get vaccinated, Johnson added, and it’s a personal choice. He said the district only received “guidance from Good Sam on how to navigate their sign-up system.”

    The state last week began vaccinating residents 65 and older, but health care providers in Santa Clara County, including Kaiser, are only vaccinating people 75 and up due to a vaccine shortage.

    Due to the short supply of vaccines, Good Samaritan reported to the county that it’s only vaccinating eligible health care workers in the first phase of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan.

    Current eligibility for patients of Good Samaritan Hospital shows that eligible health care personnel are the only ones that can currently receive a vaccination through the Good Samaritan system.

    Santa Clara County is receiving about 30,000 vaccines a week from the state and federal government. County supervisors have said it’s not enough and  voted to send a letter to state health officials demanding more doses.

    According to the Santa Clara County vaccine dashboard, Good Samaritan Hospital had received 6,585 first and second doses of the vaccine as of Jan. 22, and had administered 3,674 doses.

    The Santa Clara County Board of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

    Santa Clara County Public Health officials say they are looking into the matter after an inquiry from this news organization.

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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