A few high-risk Austin ISD teachers, staff receive COVID vaccine

The first round of teachers to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine began Saturday morning. Austin ISD has partnered up with Ascension Seton to administer the vaccine to a limited number of high-risk staff members.

The distribution will run from January 2nd until January 5th.

"I got vaccinated with the Moderna COVID vaccine. I didn't think that I would be saying that," said Amanda O’Malley, Austin ISD teacher.

Saturday morning, O’Malley received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Ascension Seton. "I got put into a room, got my vaccine, and then you have to be observed for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine," said O’Malley.

Friday night, Austin ISD’s superintendent Dr. Stefanie Elizalde sent out an email to staff announcing its partnership with Ascension Seton. Through it, AISD was able to secure a limited number of vaccines to give out to qualifying teachers.

"I took my COVID 19 vaccine, and the process was very organized. I feel fine, but I also feel all the science behind it, that's not going to just protect me, and I still have to wait for that second round," said Patty Candelaria, Austin ISD teacher.

Teachers who qualified were sent a follow-up email and call to set up an appointment for the vaccine. AISD says qualified people fall under the 65 or older category and staff with high risks.

"Beginning Saturday, January 2, through Tuesday, January 5, campus-based staff who are 65 years old and older will be invited to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a designated Ascension Seton vaccine clinic through Ascension Seton's joint partnership with Austin ISD.  Following that, and based on vaccine availability, Austin ISD staff with a qualifying high-risk condition under Group 1B will be invited to receive the vaccine in accordance with the Texas Department of State Health Services Phase 1B vaccine priority guidelines. Austin ISD central office staff are notifying eligible individuals via a personal phone call and email to share the process for registering for the vaccine." -Ascension Seton statement.


A month ago, Austin ISD denied over 1,000 teacher accommodations to work from home for the spring semester.

"According to the CDC, I have three of the top tier reasons I have cancer, I am immunocompromised, and I have heart failure," said Annie Dragoo, AISD teacher.

Dragoo was one of those teachers denied but chosen to receive the vaccine. "[AISD told me] your documented illness does not meet high risk status, and then this letter that they sent said, you have been identified as a high risk patient, and so I'm confused," said Dragoo.

Several teachers tell FOX 7 they are also confused with the process.

"If they're high risk, they're high risk, not the way the district gets to slice up high risk. They are high risk, they should be at home, they should have their accommodation along with the other 1100 people that were accommodated in the first round," said Ken Zarafiz with Education Austin.

Dragoo says she will be receiving the vaccine on Monday if her doctors approve it, but admits she’s still apprehensive.

All teachers not approved for accommodation will have to report to school on January 5th to teach in person.

"The reality is that the way these vaccines work, it's not instantaneous. That is not how it works. It takes time for your immune system to actually build up immunity after receiving the vaccine. It'll make me feel safer in about two weeks, three weeks. It'll make me even feel safer after I'm able to get my second vaccine," said O’Malley.