MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- School districts across the Phoenix area are making it easier for employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Mesa Public Schools kicked off a series of employee vaccination events Wednesday at Westwood High School.

“It is our highest priority to make sure all of our school staff feel safe when they come to work,” says Superintendent Dr. Andi Fourlis. “We learned last Thursday afternoon that we would have 4,000 vaccines, so we put a team together working with Mesa Fire and Medical.”

“I feel a little bit of relief,” says Lynn Merrill-Akin, who teaches in the Growing Up Successfully (GUS) program. “I feel hope going forward, and I would just like to see this go away.”

Merrill-Akin says once she got the alert yesterday about the opportunity to get vaccinated, she immediately signed up. She says the pandemic has kept her away from her family, and she hopes to see schools return to normal. Most schools within the Mesa Public Schools district are back in-person.

Dr. Fourlis says vaccinating staff has been a priority, but it is not mandatory for employees. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for older teens, but so far, the district has not considered whether the Covid-19 vaccine should be required for some students.

“We do have 16, 17, 18-year-olds and beyond in our school system, but we just haven’t started those conversations yet,” says Fourlis.

“I believe that’s a parent’s decision,” says State Rep. John Fillmore, who has introduced a bill that would allow parents to pull their kids out of school during an outbreak rather than vaccinate the child against the disease.

“If the parent says I don’t want my child to be vaccinated with this, I’m concerned about the safety of my child, I’m going to keep my child home, then the school board would be forced to deal or work with the parent on ensuring the student gets the education at home,” says Fillmore.

Fillmore calls it a “personal freedom” bill and says he has been working on the measure before the pandemic. Merrill-Akin says the Covid-19 crisis has been tough on teachers, students, and their families. While some colleagues have expressed hesitation in getting vaccinated, Merrill-Akin says she’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I would feel better with a vaccine than wondering if I’m going to get coronavirus,” says Merrill-Akin. “But it has to be a personal decision.”

Mesa Public Schools intends to administer 4,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine through next Wednesday. Scottsdale Unified School District, Paradise Valley Schools, and Phoenix Union High School District have employee vaccination events planned later in the week. Washington Elementary School District, Glendale Union High School District, and Glendale Elementary School District are currently working with Maricopa County Public Health to establish a site for their employees to get vaccinated.


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