Dozens of Manhattan Beach Teachers, Staff Get First VaccinesFeb 21, 2021 05:12PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Following an insider tip - and a driving odyssey that led all around Los Angeles - dozens of Manhattan Beach teachers and staff got their first COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday.
"It was like the 'Amazing Race' but for vaccines," said Shawn Chen, a Mira Costa High School English teacher and the president of the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association. "Literally - we're all giddy. We're all texting each other. I'm so happy. I'm over the moon."
By the end of the day, more than 30 teachers, administrators, and staff members had received the vaccine.
"It’s an amazing first step to get us back where we all want to be," said an overjoyed Chen.
(Editor's note: On Monday, a story surfaced that a certain vaccine access code was intended to be used in hard-hit communities of color, although the stated purpose of the code was never conveyed anywhere on the My Turn website. Chen told DigMB that on Saturday, when the teachers tried to book using the code, she called the L.A. County Department of Public Health to confirm that the code was appropriate for the teachers to use. She was transferred to three different supervisors, who all assured her that they were OK to go ahead with the vaccine appointments.)
An Odyssey Around L.A.
The odyssey began on Saturday, when Mira Costa Spanish teacher Felise Shapiro got a tip from a teacher in another district that some vaccines had been made available for teachers on Sunday, with use of a special educator access code.
Shapiro said she was a bit unsure that the code would work, but she was indeed able to use it to get an appointment at Inglewood. Then she excitedly passed along the code to her department members, to other teachers, and to any other staff or administrators that she had text numbers for "just try to get as many people this code as possible."
Many of her MBUSD colleagues took the opportunity to sign up. But on Sunday, what should have been a one-stop operation turned out to be much more convoluted.
When a handful of teachers and others arrived at Inglewood on Sunday morning, they learned that there had been a "glitch" in the system and they were not able to get their vaccines at that site.
Then the group heard from other MBUSD teachers who had appointments in Downtown L.A. that there were vaccines available at the Ramona Gardens vaccine site in East L.A. So they drove out to East L.A. and some of the Manhattan Beach teachers were able to get a vaccine there.
However, by the time many of them arrived, they were told there were no more vaccines available. Many were turning around, dejectedly, to head home.
But then, as they were leaving the line, Mira Costa English teacher Maddie Hutchinson overheard a teacher from another district saying that there were vaccines available at Cal State L.A.
"I let my group chat know, 'I'm going to try this one last thing,'" said Hutchinson, as she and her sister, also an MBUSD teacher, headed over to Cal State L.A.
As soon as they arrived, they explained the situation to the intake coordinators and found that their names were in the system and they were able to go right through. "It was really simple and really well organized," said Hutchinson, who immediately texted the rest of the educators in the group to come on over.
"What had seemed like a disaster of 'We were registered but we weren’t able to get it,' turned into 'We all got it,' said Hutchinson. "It was the most supportive day despite the stress."
"We are so excited and relieved," added Shapiro. "This was honestly the craziest two days."
Teachers Cite Supportive Network
With 330 teachers (and approximately 500 teachers and staff altogether) in the Manhattan Beach school district, there are still many more individuals who are waiting to get vaccines. And this weekend's odyssey demonstrated just how convoluted and uncertain the process of getting the vaccine can be.
But Sunday's first round of vaccines represented a light at the end of the tunnel for teachers, who have said that they want the vaccines so that they can feel safer in the classroom.
Those who were part of Sunday's odyssey credited the supportive network among teachers for getting so many individuals vaccinated with so little notice.
"I’ve always felt that one of the best parts of my job - aside from working with my students - is that I have this incredible network of fellow teachers who look out for me, and vice versa," said Hutchinson. "There is a camaraderie here that is really special."
Chen concurred: "The collegiality, a shared interest in getting the vaccine, the resourcefulness of our teachers, our ability to network - all of these contributed to being able to get these vaccines. The vaccine is going to make it that much better for us to feel less anxiety about being back to school in person."
This weekend's cohort of teachers and others will return to get their second shot in three weeks, at which point they will be fully vaccinated.