Dr. Alicia Geddis

Danville District 118 Schools Superintendent Alicia Geddis receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday from University of Illinois nursing student Courtney Krafczyk at the Vermilion County Health Department in Danville.

DANVILLE — Savannah English, a mom of a 12th-grader, 11th-grader, 8th-grader, 7th-grader and 5th-grader, was ready yesterday to have her children back in school in person.

“I want them to go back, like today,” she said recently, laughing.

Her older children have been doing fine at Danville High School, and the youngest one too at Northeast Elementary.

She’s been trying to homeschool the other two, with one having autism and the other who struggles with paying attention.

“I honestly didn’t expect it to be drawn out or this extreme,” English said.

The youths are definitely missing their friends.

Some Danville District 118 education personnel, including school nurses and social workers, have already gotten their COVID-19 vaccinations.

This week, more school officials throughout Vermilion County are starting to get their vaccinations. Danville District 118 Superintendent Alicia Geddis received hers Tuesday morning.

Geddis, who said “I didn’t even feel it. It did not hurt,” after getting her first dose, hopes to show school staff and the rest of the community the importance of getting the coronavirus vaccine. She was monitored for 15 minutes after getting the first dose, and she’ll return next month to get her second dose of the vaccine.

She said the more education personnel receive their vaccines, the sooner local COVID-19 numbers will continue to improve and the Danville school district can get all students back in school in person.

Geddis said she hopes the older students, grades 5-12, could go back in school possibly by the fourth quarter of this school year, by April.

She said at least the high school seniors then would have some in-person time, and some sort of a senior year with their friends before they graduate.

Geddis said about getting the vaccine on Tuesday, she wanted to “inspire our community to do the same,” as some do not trust vaccines.

Other superintendents in Vermilion County also have made vaccine appointments.

Geddis said a survey of Danville District 118’s 900 employees indicated 60 percent said they were interested in getting the vaccine. She’s hoping the other 40 percent also will come along.

The Illinois State Board of Education has not made vaccines for teachers and other staff a requirement, and D118 follows those guidelines. But Geddis said “I’m just hoping that most of the staff will see that in order to get our schools back operating at 100 percent it will be necessary for everyone to be safe. If this is one more step we can take, let’s all do it together.”

As of now, the younger elementary students are scheduled to return to school Jan. 25 with the blended learning program. The older students have been participating in online learning since March 2020.

A parent survey had more than 1,000 responses about the second semester of the school year which starts Jan. 25.

Elementary parents were split about 50/50 in wanting students in school or at home learning.

Parents of students in grades 6th-12th were split: 60 percent wanting students to go back in school with some sort of blended learning and 40 percent wanted to stay remote, according to Geddis.

Derek Holycross, director of pharmacy operations for the eastern region of OSF HealthCare, said the vaccine is truly safe and effective.

“The data is outstanding,” Holycross said about the studies, adding that it’s the most successful vaccine he’s seen.

There have been rare serious side effects, he said.

He said some people feel the studies were rushed.

“I feel comfortable as a pharmacist they’ve been effective studies,” Holycross said.

“This has been a No. 1 priority,” he added, saying all red tape and bureaucracy was removed.

He compares it to getting a home mortgage done quickly in a few days instead of 45-60 days if many people focused on it. The process still was completed, but moved a lot more quickly.

Minor side effects, such as low-grade fevers and headaches, can be expected more so after the second vaccine dose. These are signs that the vaccine is working and getting your immunity up to that level of protection.

Holycross said the vaccine also will provide coverage with different virus mutations.

What is still fully unknown is how long the vaccine will provide protection. Holycross said the vaccine should be good for at least six months, but there is a possibility a shot could be needed every year.

As the Vermilion County Health Department moves into the 1B group category that includes people 65 and older, OSF also plans, likely starting next week, to vaccinate this group for OSF patients only at the Danville Polyclinic.

“We’re trying to keep it moving and support the health department,” Holycross said.

He expects more funding for vaccines and an even more organized effort for vaccination clinics.

Holycross also expects to see children vaccinated sometime in 2021.

“We’re going to need all hands on deck to get this done,” he added.

He advises people to strip away the politics and get good information from someone they trust, like a doctor or nurse practitioner.

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