Joy Wang & Megan Abundis
Updated: January 21, 2021 10:20 PM
Created: January 21, 2021 09:41 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Department of Health announced Thursday they would not go through with a major teacher vaccination clinic for Rio Rancho Public Schools the day before it was supposed to take place.
Many teachers told that KOB 4 spoke with said they’re devastated by NMDOH’s decision.
“I am also a mother besides being a teacher, and my mom who was high risk, takes care of my children. I'm also high risk for several different health reasons. And so, the thought that I was going to be able to have this vaccination as a teacher as a mother and as a daughter, it was just—it was overwhelming, and I was telling everybody about my excitement and then today when we heard the news, it was just a complete blow,” said Kari Capriglione, a teacher.
The school district had been planning this vaccination event for weeks.
“It actually started with the county as a trial to see how the processes would work, and they asked us if we wanted to be part of that, and we just jumped at the opportunity to be part of it,” said Dr. Sue Cleveland, superintendent of Rio Rancho Public Schools.
The district rounded up 64 volunteers and asked parents to keep their kids home Friday.
“That would allow us to be able to have those teachers free, and our parents were very supportive,” Dr. Cleveland said.
I thought, ‘Great, we're going to get the teachers vaccinated.’ There's a chance then that my son would be allowed in school this year,” said Jenny DiGregorio, a parent.
Those 1,800 spots were all filled by Rio Rancho Public Schools, charter schools and Bernalillo County Public Schools. But just 24 hours before the end, NMDOH canceled it.
“I'm disappointed for all the students and all the parents who want their children in school, that the state has decided to take this giant step back in Rio Rancho,” DiGregorio said.
Dr. Cleveland was the one to break the news to the district Thursday.
“I could tell you it was one of the hardest things I've ever sent out,” she said.
“We've done so much to try to get to this day and now it's gone,” added Capriglione
But Dr. Cleveland said the school district won’t give up.
“We're gonna keep working to get it as soon as we can for ourselves,” she said.
Rio Rancho Public Schools said they were told the event did not follow the order of the vaccination rollout phases, and that it would be unfair to Albuquerque Public Schools, who also had an event canceled by NMDOH.
Officials with NMDOH said they take full responsibility over the confusion, and that the event should’ve never been approved in the first place because teachers aren’t included in the current vaccination phase. However, they also said state providers should’ve also known about the vaccine rollout phases.
"There have been some incidents, I'm not going to name names or talk about specifics now of folks who have appeared to known what is appropriate and done something different,” said Matt Bieber, a spokesperson for NMDOH.
Recently, a Presbyterian Hospital vaccination link got out to the public by mistake when it was only meant for first responders.
"As with anything of this scale, it hasn't gone absolutely perfectly, a couple of folks have jumped the line a couple of, incidents in where the wrong folks got vaccinated, we're conscious of that,” Bieber said.
The state emphasized that they must move through in sequence because they’re trying to get the vaccine into the arms of people who are the most exposed and vulnerable, and be as fair as possible. Bottom line: there has to be a degree of waiting not just for teachers, but for all New Mexicans because there is more demand than supply.
As for RRPS, the DOH said it will try and salvage as much of the event as they can when they are eligible.
Copyright 2021 - KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company