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COVID-19 vaccination data not kept by W.Va. Dept. of Education

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:52 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia school leaders have been pushing COVID-19 vaccines as a way to return to pre-pandemic learning since the shots first became available. Gov. Jim Justice even moved teachers to the front of the vaccination line to help reopen classrooms.

WSAZ found the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) does not track how many students, teachers and school staff members have been vaccinated against COVID-19 across the state.

In a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from WSAZ asking for this data, the WVDE said it “does not possess documentation responsive to this request.”

This is despite the Department sponsoring a competition this semester, I Got Vaxxed, which awarded a total of $600,000 to 12 schools across the state with the highest vaccination rate. The money is designed to be an award to improve the student experience at schools where teachers, staff and eligible students rolled up their sleeves and got a shot.

When asked about this competition and how that vaccination information was collected by the state, WVDE Communications Director Christy Day said in an email that schools chose to participate and voluntarily submitted information that was confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Day said additional information is not collected because the state does not require schools to report it, and WSAZ’s request for the basic vaccination totals “is not easy to answer with data that is readily available to us.”

Cabell County Schools cancelled all classes last Friday to hold a vaccination clinic for its teachers to get either their first or booster shot. School officials estimate that around 750 teachers were vaccinated at the event, but do not have any way of knowing exactly how many people got a shot.

Kanawha County Schools said a little more than 2,700 staff members have been vaccinated at clinics run by the schools, and 600 booster shots were given out at a clinic last Friday. However, it is unknown how many people were vaccinated outside of these events at pharmacies, doctors offices, health department events and other vaccination opportunities.

The WVDE said while it does have a record of how many vaccines were requested for clinics held by schools, it does not know how many of those doses went into the arms of students, teachers and school staff because many clinics were also open to community members.

WVDE General Counsel Heather Hutchens said they do have limited data on schools that voluntarily submitted vaccination information for the I Got Vaxxed competition, and will work on providing the data to WSAZ as soon as possible.

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