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Sheriff’s medical staff leading charge to vaccinate educators

  • Medical staff at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office helped to vaccine residents of Elm Terrace in Greenfield against COVID-19 on Monday. Starting Thursday, the medical team will lead the charge to get county teachers, school administrators, all school staff members and bus drivers vaccinated before they return to in-person learning. Staff Photo/Paul Franz



Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2021 5:15:30 PM

Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan’s medical team will lead the charge starting Thursday to get county teachers, school administrators, all school staff members and bus drivers vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to in-person learning in April as the governor and state education commissioner have requested.

Donelan said that because of the pandemic, courts being closed, the release of prisoners for various reasons and other factors, the inmate population is down at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction, leaving his medical team with less to do than usual. The inmate population averaged about 250 pre-pandemic and now it is about 130.

“Our medical team is doing about half of what it typically does, so we reached out to the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to see what we could do for the community,” Donelan said. “We saw an opportunity to help vaccinate the community and we took it.”

While Donelan’s medical staff members are also helping vaccinate the county’s elderly population, he said they all felt it was “very important” to also help educators.

“There’s been quite a coordinated effort here in Franklin County,” he said. “We have the ability to do a ‘road show,’ if you will, so we thought that would be a big help.”

Donelan explained that the county could set up a central hub that all educators and staff would have to travel to, but health officials thought it would be easier to bring the vaccine to them by setting up a clinic at each regional high school and having people go there from each of those regions. If someone can’t make it to their region’s clinic, they could choose to travel to another. Donelan advised that those plans are still “up in the air” as officials are still considering setting up at one school that is centrally located and having everyone go there, possible Franklin County Technical School.

FRCOG Emergency Preparedness Program Manager Tracy Rogers said the agency and everyone involved in setting up local clinics are thrilled that the sheriff and some of his staff will be helping.

“We couldn’t be happier,” Rogers said. “Vaccinating everyone has been a team effort from the start, and it will continue to be.”

Donelan said scheduling has been the biggest challenge, because the county doesn’t typically know until late each Friday about how many vaccines it will receive for the next week. According to Rogers, the county has about 3,000 teachers, school staff, bus drivers and other school personnel to vaccinate.

Donelan said if the county begins receiving more vaccines, his medical staff would have the capability to vaccinate people five days a week, if needed.

“Once we’re done at one school clinic, we’ll open up and move to the next,” he said.

Besides his medical team, Donelan and other members of his staff will work at some of the clinics if they are needed, either to sign people in, sign them up for their next shot, direct traffic and parking, or monitor people after they receive their shots.

“We’ll see what’s needed as this rolls out,” he said.

Donelan said he understands that people are anxious and eager to get their first shot, especially those heading back to in-person learning with students in the next several weeks.

“We just ask that everyone be patient,” he said. “We will get to you. When we leave one clinic, we’ll head to the next one whenever we have enough vaccines. If it’s at one location, we’ll just keep returning until they are all vaccinated.”

Donelan said he is proud that his staff can be part of the effort.

“This is how we do things in Franklin County,” he said. “We collaborate better than anywhere else. We get things done.”

Franklin County residents can now go to franklincountymavaccine.org to register for an appointment at one of the local clinics.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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