Board of Health Unanimously Recommends that School Committee Require Covid-19 Vaccination for All Bedford School Staff

The Board of Health Monday unanimously recommended at its Sept. 27 meeting that the School Committee require Covid-19 vaccination for all staff in the Bedford Public Schools.

“We constantly hear that the best way to protect kids is staff vaccination,” said member Maureen Richichi. “It is one of the tools we can use to make the best protection for the unvaccinated. The best thing we can do in schools is to vaccinate all the adults.”

Richichi’s motion stipulated that the School Committee “do whatever they need to do” to initiate the staff vaccine mandate. Her reference was to the possibility that collective bargaining units might regard the mandate as a change in working conditions and seek renegotiations.

Lincoln teachers recently enthusiastically accepted a staff mask requirement, said Richichi, who worked for 14 years as a school nurse and public health nurse in that neighboring town. The union even collaborated on the wording, she added.

Other Board of Health members supported the proposal. “I think it’s a good idea even if just to find out where that stands,” said Ann Kiessling. Bea Brunkhorst said she wished the board had made the recommendation sooner.

Member Susan Schwartz stressed that the requirement will be part of a “multi-pronged approach” to confronting the virus, also featuring air circulation, testing, and distancing. “It all goes hand in hand.” Schwartz added that she has met with School Committee Chair Sarah Scoville to discuss the ways the two panels can complement each other.

Richichi said, “We are all hoping these mask mandates can be lifted, so anything we can do to decrease transmission will get us toward that goal.

Kiessling supported the recommendation but noted that “we don’t know what percentage of vaccinated people still get infected. More than half of the positive cases last week were already vaccinated.” The vaccine “does keep people out of the hospital, but data for infection spread will be a longer time coming.”

Town-wide Covid-19 data shared by Heidi Porter, Director of Health and Human Services, indicated some mixed results.

Although the number of cases in Bedford over the most recent 14-day period was 50, compared to 40 a week earlier, the most recent seven-day total was 17. Among those were nine breakthrough cases, and multiple cases in two households. The extrapolation per 100,000 persons still is considered “high,” according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two of the most recent cases are residents of long-term care facilities, Porter said, but there were no hospitalizations. She added that there also has been no transmission reported in schools or school-related activities.

Porter reported that state health officials have asked if her department might be available to administer Covid-19 booster immunizations. There have been no firm arrangements, and the office is understaffed, “but we will do our best,” she said, noting that the current emphasis is on “flu, flu, flu, moving forward.’

Earlier this month former community health nurse Mark Waksmonski began working for the state Department of Public Health. Porter said there has only been one applicant for the vacancy over the past three weeks, and her department is relying on contract nurses.

Porter also told the board that there were only two Covid vaccinations administered at the Health Department’s Bedford Day tent. She also noted that a substitute “vaccine ambassador” from the state DPH did not bring printed vaccine materials, although “She was there to talk about vaccine hesitancy.”

The director also said police were recently called to de-escalate three situations of resistance to the indoor mask mandate.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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