Children’s Hospital vaccinates thousands of DCPS staff members

Madison Dias

Through a partnership with Children’s National Hospital (CNH), over 3,200 DCPS employees are now fully vaccinated. 

Over 6,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were set aside from DCPS’s vaccination supply and exclusively offered to employees working in-person for Term 3. According to Director of Pharmacy Operations of Children’s National Hospital Sean Song Qiang Tan, “[CNH] vaccinated [3,267] DCPS employees that included teachers, janitors, cooks, assistants, etc.” 

Because Children’s National Hospital was chosen as a site for the Pfizer product by the DC Department of Health (DC DOH), the Pfizer vaccine was used.

Staff were notified early in the morning on January 25 that signups for the vaccine were available. Through an email they received from ES communications, they were able to schedule appointments. 

“The signup came out and it [involved] simply choosing your time and date, and they told you how many slots were available,” ESL and social studies teacher Jonathan Shea said.

Initially, spots filled up quickly, Enough people had gotten through that they started on their waiting list. So I know at least one teacher who was put on the waiting list had gotten an appointment on Saturday,” Shea said.

 Volunteering nurses, medical doctors, and pharmacists from CNH were administering the vaccines. CNH was responsible for setting up the vaccine supply and administration process.

Tan’s role in the distribution was ensuring that vaccines were safely transported from the hospital to Dunbar High School, vaccines were prepared safely, and waste was minimized as much as possible.

According to Shea, there were 20 vaccine doses provided for every 5 minute slot, with 12 available slots per hour. On January 26, there were two hours of appointments with a total of 480 filled in slots. 

Principal Kimberly Martin received her vaccine through DCPS, “It generally was a really pleasant experience, I felt tremendously lucky,” she said.

Tan describes working with DCPS as “pleasant and fruitful.”

“Everyone was very engaged and excited for the event,” Tan said. 

Martin recounts the process to have been ‘super effective’. “Once you [entered the building], they [gave you] hand sanitizer, they took your temperature, and they asked you a series of regular Covid questions,” Martin said. After this, staff made their way to a front table where DCPS central office staff were working to hand out vaccination cards. 

After registering, staff then had to stand in a second line to receive the shot. According to Tan, there were a total of 24 stations. 

Once the name of a DCPS staff member was called, they would be ushered to a vaccine station, where a volunteer CNH employee put a shot into their arm.  

Before the process was complete, DCPS faculty had to wait in a confined area for 15 minutes to ensure medical attention was present if any immediate adverse physical reactions occurred.

“We did not see any major adverse physical reactions. We did have two patients that had an allergic reaction, but we were able to treat them with an EpiPen and Benadryl,” Tan said. 

“I  [received both doses] on Saturday mornings and it was fine. [Going on the weekend,] they had really upped the efficiency of the lines, process, and movement. I was in line for 10 minutes [outside], another 10 minutes indoors, and then I was done within 20,” science teacher Zachary Meyers said. 

Administration of second doses began on February 15. 

Symptoms from the second dose may be more severe, including fever, fatigue, headache, and soreness at the injection site on their arm. DCPS was given the 16 of February as an asynchronous day to recover from any possible symptoms, Principal Kimberly Martin said.

Both Martin and Shea experienced zero symptoms from either shot. However, Meyers exhibited mild fatigue from his first dose, and more severe symptoms from his second. “I had a really bad headache mixed with bone ache. I woke up Sunday morning and it felt like I had osteoporosis all over my body. But, it only lasted for like 24 hours and then they subsided,” Meyers said. 

Shea explains that his opinion on receiving the vaccine has remained positive before and after becoming vaccinated. “Well one, I’m happy to be vaccinated because it does make all of the rest of life easier. Two, I think that it’s the responsible thing to do to get vaccinated… I know that being vaccinated also helps protect other people,” Shea said. 

Originally, Martin wasn’t going to get the vaccine. “I have a lot of reasons to be mistrustful,” referencing the medical-industrial complex. “I was really against it. And then, thankfully, my scientist friends [convinced me] and boy, am I glad they did,” Martin said.  

It will be up to the DC Department of Health to determine the amount of vaccines to be distributed to any staff newly returning into in-person learning. “Currently all vaccines are distributed under the guidance of DC DOH. For this particular event, DC DOH was in charge of providing vaccines to CNH and CNH was responsible for administering the vaccine to approved populations,” Tan said.