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More than 800 Sumner County school employees received their first dose of the vaccine on Sunday. FILE

More than 800 Sumner County school district employees received a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, according to Sumner County Schools Spokesman Jeremy Johnson.

The vaccines, made possible through a community partnership between the school district and Sumner Regional Medical Center, came as the school district continues to seek vaccines from the Tennessee Department of Health.

“We are extremely grateful to [CEO] Susan Peach and Sumner Regional Medical Center for their willingness to be a partner with us,” said Johnson.

The vaccines were administered in-house by a combination of the school district’s nursing staff and health care provider One-to-One Health. Those receiving the vaccine included school district employees (teachers, school nutrition staff, bus drivers, etc.) age 51 or older; employees who work directly with special education students; and school principals, according to Johnson.

With about half of the school district’s 5,000 employees requesting the vaccine, Johnson said Sumner County Schools still needs about 1,700 more vaccines.

“We want to be able to supply any employee who wants one with a vaccination,” he said.  

The state’s teachers were moved up on a vaccine distribution priority list behind health care workers and first responders (Phase 1a1) and long-term care facility residents and staff (Phase 1a2) on Dec. 30.

However, the state reversed course on Jan. 8 and announced a pause on teacher vaccines while giving priority first to those 75 and over, and then to those over the age of 70. Teachers in grades K-12 and child care staff are now scheduled to receive the vaccine in Phase 2b, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

While many counties have moved to Phase 2b, Sumner County is still vaccinating those in the first two phases as well as those ages 70 and older.  

Johnson said that Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips has been asking the state’s health department for a vaccine distribution timeline for his employees since the end of December to no avail.

“We’ve asked for five to six weeks now,” said Johnson.

Phillips was particularly frustrated when he read a news report that about 200 Clarksville-Montgomery County School District employees received COVID-19 vaccines earmarked for Sumner County after a wind storm on Jan. 25, Johnson said.

According to a report in the Main Street Clarksville newspaper, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School District received a call from the CEO at Tennova Health Care in Clarksville, indicating due to a wind storm in Sumner County, the top was blown off of the location of where the vaccine was being administered.

“They had about 300 vials of vaccine that, if they didn’t get out, and into people’s arms, the vaccine would go bad,” CMCSS Director of Schools Millard House said during a Jan. 26 Board of Education meeting. “The director of the health department, at the state level, told Tennova to find 300 arms to get it in, and to get it done.”

Within an hour 200 CMCSS employees and 95 Austin Peay State University employees received a vaccine, House said.

“When Dr. Phillips saw that report, he was very upset and disappointed that our school system wasn’t contacted for those vaccines,” Johnson said. “It’s frustrating to hear doses were diverted to Clarksville schools when we’ve been asking on a daily basis for our staff and we weren’t even contacted or given the option to distribute them.”

“Due to the concern of having some vaccine expire by the end of the day, along with the threat of severe weather, some vaccine was moved to Montgomery County,” said Tennessee Department of Health Spokesman Bill Christian. “We reached out to the hospital in Montgomery County to see if they could utilize the vaccine that day due to the tight timeline. While this wasn’t an ideal situation, in the end, it prevented wasting the vaccine.”

As of Monday, 848,930 people had received the COVID-19 vaccine statewide with 8.53 percent of the population statewide receiving at least one dose. In Sumner County 19,367 vaccines have been reported. Seven percent of the county’s population has received at least one dose and 2.93 percent have received two doses, according to the state health department’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Anyone 70 or older who wants to place his or her name on a waiting list for the vaccine may do so at

www.signupgenie.com/go/sumner_priority_list.

Reporter Cheri Reeves contributed to this report.

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