NAVARRE, Ohio (WJW)– Two days after employees were given their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations, the Fairless Local School District canceled classes, attributing it to many developing side effects and becoming ill.
School employees across Ohio started getting their first round of the COVID-19 vaccinations, including Massillon City Schools and Medina County Schools on Friday, Akron Public Schools over the weekend, in addition to Tuslaw Local Schools in Massillon, Plain Local Schools in Canton and Fairless Local Schools in Navarre on Saturday.
In most cases, as much as 80 percent of the eligible employees are accepting the vaccinations. Medina County schools canceled classes on Friday to allow employees to all be vaccinated on the same day. Other districts are choosing to have their mass vaccinations over the weekends so as not to interfere with classes.
Public health officials in the counties where the vaccinations are taking place call the clinics a massive undertaking, but are pleased with how they are going. They are also not surprised that a number of the people who are getting the vaccinations are reporting side effects, calling that perfectly normal for any vaccine.
“I’m very encouraged. We want to make sure that all of our school personnel are safe, and we want to try to help protect them so it is very very encouraging for us.” said Dr. Maureen Ahmann, medical director for the Stark County Health Department.
Ahmann said she was aware that Fairless Local Schools canceled classes on Monday, but was not familiar with the number of employees reporting illness related to the vaccines.
“As far as specifically the call-off numbers in Fairless, I haven’t spoken to them, but I am not surprised if people are having some of the reactions like that to the vaccine. In fact, it’s kind of good news because we know they are responding,” Ahmann said.
“Sometimes we see it after the first dose, sometimes we see it after the second dose. I had my second dose last week and had a 103 fever the next day. Although I would much rather have a 103 fever for 24 hours than COVID-19 for two weeks,” she said.
Administrators of the Fairless Local School District did not respond to Fox 8 attempts to reach them on Monday.
Plain Local Schools and Tuslaw Schools, also in Stark County, had their vaccinations on Saturday and held classes as usual on Monday.
In a report published in December, the FDA said of 38,000 participants in a test class for the Pfizer vaccine, 84.1 percent reported injection site reactions, such as redness or tenderness at the injection site. About 63 percent reported experiencing fatigue, 55 percent reported headaches, 38 percent reported muscle pain, 32 percent reported chills, 24 percent experienced joint pain and 14 percent reported fever.
The FDA report concluded, “The frequency of serious adverse events was low ( less than 0.5 percent) but were more frequent after dose two than after dose 1.
Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said she is aware of some school districts considering using a calamity day following the second dose of the vaccine for employees, but she was not aware of any districts in Summit County that have canceled classes following the first dose.
“We vaccinated our vaccinators and I can tell you that some have reacted. Some haven’t. Some have felt bad for a day, some had a headache, some body aches some fatigue and then we had a couple who felt really rotten for a couple days. So it doesn’t really know, but I tell you that it is no reason to not take a vaccine,” Skoda said.
For Ahmann, it would not be surprising that the normal effects of the vaccine might impact the ability of a smaller school district, like Fairless, to hold classes.
“I don’t know the situation today in Fairless, but that makes total sense and I do know that it has been hard for all school districts to get substitutes, you know, teachers, bus driver substitutes. It’s very hard because we are in the middle of a pandemic so if they do have some you are right it would make it very difficult,” Ahmann said.
Both Ahmann and Skoda said the fact that Fairless canceled school on Monday should not persuade those who are considering a COVID-19 vaccine to change their minds.
“We are really close to it. We know all of the cases, we know the people who have unfortunately passed on, but I have to tell you that illness that I have seen people have is nowhere near the destruction that COVID has caused,” Skoda said
“Feeling uncomfortable and having a headache is nowhere near what COVID can do to you and if you are fortunate enough in this vaccine shortage, to be able to have a vaccine offered to you, you should take it and put up with whatever side effects you have.”
“People who are vaccine hesitant are going to be vaccine hesitant no matter what happens, and so we are trying to help people who want help who really want to take the vaccine,” Ahmann said.
“As far as people using that as an excuse not to get the vaccine, that’s their choice. No one is forcing anyone to get the vaccine. That’s not happening so if their choice is they are not going to take it, that’s their health, that’s their choice, but we are going to give it to as many people as want it.”