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Safe Schools liaison Simrit Cheema was among the first district staff members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine this week as the vaccination rollout began for all K-12 school-based employees in the Surrey School District.
Staff from dozens of Surrey schools have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the prompt vaccination rollout by Fraser Health that began on Wednesday.
Teachers, principals and support staff lined up at the immunization clinic set up at the former Best Buy at King George Boulevard and 100 Avenue. The district and health region worked together to coordinate vaccines by district zone, starting with City Centre and Panorama-Sullivan-area schools given the high rates of community transmission in those communities.
"It's great that our district has been able to coordinate these vaccinations so quickly with Fraser Health," said Woodward Hill Elementary teacher Rav Grewal. "The nurses were amazing and it was such a quick and easy process. And getting the vaccine provides a sense of relief knowing that my colleagues and I have an additional layer of protection – we are one step closer to putting this pandemic behind us."
"The whole thing was fabulous, it was very efficient and 100% of our staff were thankful and appreciative to have it," said Tamanawis Secondary principal Kevin De Boice, who noted efforts were made to include staff who are on leave in the vaccination process. "This is a step forward for them, even before they return to work."
Staff at Cambridge Elementary, a school that closed for two weeks in November following a COVID-19 outbreak, were among the first to receive the vaccine. Principal Ixchel Bradley said the process was smooth and organized, and provided a light at the end of the tunnel for her colleagues.
"Given the closure we had at Cambridge, I think our staff are feeling relieved to have the vaccine," she said. "Everybody is still super cautious and all of the protocols are still in place, but there's that additional peace of mind that you feel safer and you're not going to pass anything on to the kids or to your family."
With nurses working every day to provide injections, the district aims to finish the Panorama-Sullivan and City Centre zones by the end of the weekend. Schools in Newton-Fleetwood will be next, followed by those in Guildford, Cloverdale/Clayton and South Surrey/White Rock.
Safe Schools liaison Simrit Cheema, who works out of Tamanawis Secondary, said the vaccination line moved quickly, with everyone maintaining physical distance and following instructions from Fraser Health staff. She noted she was in and out in less than 45 minutes.
"The nurse was fantastic, it took two seconds, it didn't even hurt -- it was really fast," she said. "I feel a bit more relaxed and really lucky that we're even able to get the shot so quickly. Everyone feels safer to come to school."
Likewise, North Ridge Elementary education assistant Kerry Ogilvy said having the first dose puts her and other staff more at ease about going to school, and she's grateful to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine earlier than expected.
"As an education assistant, I cross cohorts daily and this just makes me feel a little bit safer about doing my job," she said. "We're as careful as we can be, but this is just another layer of protection.
"I was impressed with how fast this was organized. I think I had seven emails from Dr. Tinney or my principal in a matter of three hours and we were scheduled. It makes you feel valued."
On behalf of the Surrey School District – thank you Fraser Health for allowing our school-based staff an opportunity to get vaccinated.