Last year, Shadlie Kensrue, full–time credentialed nurse for Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) and member of Irvine Teachers Association, was closely following the COVID-19 vaccination rollout plans in Orange County. Once the county started its first phase of vaccine distribution and injections in late December, she reached out to help, volunteering after work hours and on the weekend.
“I have had a lot of guilt that I am not shoulder to shoulder with my intensive care unit colleagues, especially during this last surge that has overwhelmed our hospitals,” says Kensrue, a critical care and trauma nurse prior to her current job at Northwood High School. “It has been an honor for me to volunteer my time and my skills to our community during this pandemic.”
Kensrue found herself administering shots at the Disneyland and Soka University supersite locations and various clinics to frontline workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions. Meanwhile, she remains acutely aware of the need for educators to get vaccinated.
“With each vaccine I give, my hope is that perhaps that could be one less hospitalized or ICU patient. And with each dose given, my hope is that we are one dose closer to getting these vaccines into the arms of our teachers and school staff.”
“Teachers have been some of the biggest heroes this year. It will be an awesome day when I get to give them their vaccine and tell them thank you for hanging in there and taking on the impossible task of supporting students through this pandemic.” – Shadlie Kensrue
Unfortunately, Orange County officials, like many of their counterparts in California, still have not determined when they’ll be able to start vaccinating educators and others in Phase 1B. In addition to a lack of statewide coordination, many counties report vaccine shortages and being behind in inoculating the thousands of people in Phase 1A.
(In a press conference on Jan. 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that starting in February, teachers and others in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination priority list could begin to be vaccinated, even in counties where Phase 1A is still being vaccinated.)
Educators and others awaiting vaccines are understandably frustrated, as is Kensrue. “Because IUSD has been in person since fall, our teachers are eager to receive this vaccine, and I am willing to do anything I can to speed up that process for them,” she says.
“Our teachers have truly been some of the biggest heroes this year. I have been so inspired by them and their diligence to press on despite the circumstances. It will be an awesome day when I get to give them their vaccine and tell them thank you for hanging in there and taking on the impossible task of supporting students through this pandemic.”
Medical professionals like Kensrue understand that vaccinations are just one component of what’s needed to keep communities and schools safe. In a virtual fireside chat with NEA President Becky Pringle and AFT President Randi Weingarten on Jan. 28, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “Even after getting vaccinated, you still have to wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.”
Some were alarmed by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s January announcement to lift the state’s stay-at-home order. “Have we not learned anything?” said Marcia Santini, a nurse at UCLA Medical Center, in a Guardian article. Santini was infected and hospitalized with COVID-19 in December.
“A fireman doesn’t put out half of a fire and hope the rest goes out on its own. Our numbers will shoot back up again and we’ll just keep infecting each other.”
CTA expressed concern about moving too quickly to reopen schools that, unlike Kensrue’s, are currently closed, particularly as variants of the coronavirus pose new dangers. CTA officers sent a letter to Newsom and other leaders on Jan. 27 urging a “clear and coordinated state, county, and local plan that puts the health and safety of our communities first and does not take shortcuts toward the path of opening schools in person.” To do otherwise, the letter says, “will continue the ‘yo-yo’ effect we warned of last summer and this fall — opening schools, only to then close them because we failed to have the necessary layered protections and asymptomatic testing in place.”
Kensrue soldiers on, noting that the biggest hurdle in the county at the moment is not having enough vaccinators. “Many providers who are able to give vaccines are already overburdened in the hospitals and clinics with our current surge of COVID patients,” she says.
Her husband and three daughters have been supportive of her long weekend and evening hours, understanding that what she does is helping the community get through the pandemic a little faster.
“Although the shifts at the vaccine clinics are long (10-hour shifts) and physically demanding, I cannot think of a better way to spend my weekends right now. There is hope in people’s eyes and gratitude in their hearts. I plan on being in it for the long haul.”
Interested medical and nonmedical volunteers in Orange County can sign up at oneoc.org.
Resources and Information
CTA continues to demand that schools not reopen until they are safe for students, educators and our communities. Vaccines are one component of comprehensive safety efforts. Read CTA’s stance on reopening schools and the Jan. 27 letter to state leaders at cta.org/COVID-19.
Be sure to check out CTA’s COVID-19 vaccine resources, including FAQs for educators and latest updates, at