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Oswego County schools use emergency days after staff feel side effects from COVID-19 vaccine

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO News (file photo)

Hundreds of school staff members across Oswego County received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. This prompted three school districts to use emergency days to allow their staff to recover from side effects from the vaccine.

“We had enough teachers and instructional staff and transportation staff who received their vaccine this [Thursday] morning and said to their supervisor, ‘I think I'm gonna have to take a sick day tomorrow because I don't feel very well,’” said Lynn Rhone, superintendent of the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown school district.

Sandy Creek superintendent Kyle Faulkner said his district was in the same boat.

“We were prepared to use an emergency day if we needed to,” he said. “Obviously we didn't want to, but the bottom line was we had many teachers and other staff members who just simply weren't feeling well enough to come to work.”

Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of Upstate Medical University’s Infectious Disease Division, and an expert in the COVID-19 vaccine, said mild side effects such as headaches and fatigue have become common in more than 50% of recipients of the second dose of the vaccine.

While each school district only has a limited number of “emergency days,” neither Faulkner nor Rhone was worried about using those days up for their staff to recover.

“It's really not that big of a deal this year only because we are now allowed to if we need to use a snow day, we are now allowed to teach remotely,” said Faulkner.

Both school districts use ConnextCare, an Oswego County healthcare provider that covers four of the local school districts. Rhone said the provider approached her about vaccinating such a large portion of her staff all at once, and both superintendents said they even set up a vaccine clinic right on their school’s campuses.

ConnextCare is also the healthcare provider for the Mexico school district, which already held clinics for both doses of the vaccine, and the Pulaski school district, which also had an emergency day on Friday to hold its second vaccine clinic.

“Thank goodness somebody stepped up and found some vaccinations for us and allowed some of our people to get those vaccines,” said Rhone.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.