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Kokomo schools offers staff $750 to be vaccinated

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Kokomo School Corporation is enticing staff members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by offering a $750 stipend.

On June 7, the school board approved a recommendation to offer the stipend to qualified school employees, which will be paid through utilizing the CARES Act, ESSER II, and other grants. To be eligible, employees must be board-approved and submit vaccination documentation on or before Aug. 2. The stipend will be given to those who already have been vaccinated as well.

At this time, no employees are required to obtain the vaccination.

Kokomo School Corp. Superintendent Jeff Hauswald conservatively estimated that the cost incurred from the stipend would be $600,000.

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“The reasoning for this vaccination stipend is a corporation effort to maintain school operations and services during the COVID-19 pandemic by helping staff members overcome the barriers to securing the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as a direct effort to coordinate preparedness by providing school leaders with resources to help reduce the spread of the COVID virus, and keep schools operating by reducing absences of staff due to COVID-19 related reasons,” according to a press release from the school. “Staff members and eligible students who are vaccinated currently do not have to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19, so limiting the spread of COVID-19 can help alleviate restrictions on school activities, can help our schools remain open for in-person instruction by keeping staffing levels at acceptable levels for operation, and reduce the spread of the covid virus within our community. Absences of teachers increase the number of substitute teachers necessary at a time when a shortage of substitute teachers already exists within our community and statewide.”

Howard County Health Officer and Kokomo School Corporation Health Clinic Physician Dr. Emily Backer reiterated her support for vaccinating against COVID-19.

“I very strongly recommend that all my patients get the covid vaccine,” Dr. Backer said. “It is extremely safe and also very effective. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us and get on with more normal lives. Getting the vaccine not only protects you, but also those around you. It is important to remember that those under age 12 are not eligible for a vaccine yet, so by the rest of us getting vaccinated, we are helping to protect those under 12 from getting sick.”

Dr. Backer also said the vaccines being used in the United States offer protection against the variants of the COVID virus.

“It is important to realize that we do have a more contagious variant of the COVID virus (B.117, the British variant) that is now the dominant strain in Indiana,” Dr. Backer said. “It is more than 70 percent more contagious than the original version and causes more severe illness. The vaccines we use in the U.S. protect very well against this British variant. Plus, if you already have had covid you may have some immunity but no one knows how long it will last. It is still recommended you get the vaccine as it gives more consistent and higher immunity than having the disease itself.”