March 24, 2021

Union nurses take the lead in vaccinating their education colleagues

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
vaccine team
Caption: On-site vaccination clinics were “very well received by the UFT membership. It was very organized,” said Federation of Nurses/UFT member Raquel Webb Geddes (center), pictured here with UFT nurse Howard Sandau (left) and UFT retired nurse Jihad Hamad. Photo provided by Raquel Webb Geddes.

A team of lead nurses from the Federation of Nurses/UFT has been helping with vaccine rollout during the past month as teachers and school-related professionals in the New York City area get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We’re sending seasoned veterans to help out,” said Anne Goldman, a United Federation of Teachers vice president and chair of NYSUT’s Health Care Professionals Council. “We’ve been pretty efficient and effective.”

The UFT nurses have been on-site in massive vaccination clinics at high schools and other locations to help assess educators and school personnel during the waiting period after they receive the vaccine.

“What are the side effects? We have no reference. We are all creating a point of reference,” said UFT visiting nurse Raquel Webb Geddes, who was assigned to two sites in Brooklyn. “Vaccine hesitancy is real… But we must have a path forward. We’re following the science.”

Getting vaccinated is important, because “the ticker counter for deaths is still escalating,” she said.

The UFT helped ease the difficulty of scheduling vaccinations by posting information on its website for members to find the closest school-based vaccination site.

“It was well, well received by the UFT membership,” Webb Geddes said. “It was very organized.”

Webb Geddes said each person vaccinated received a reusable canvas tote bag containing a bottle of water, a mini first-aid kit, pocket tissues, a change purse, and list of union phone numbers in different boroughs. Each tote also contained a note from UFT President Michael Mulgrew thanking members for their service to students.

The veteran UFT nurses responding to the vaccine rollout and supporting school nurses included Joann Ali, retiree Jihad Hamad, Rosemary Scheriff, and NYSUT Health Care Professional Council members Howard Sandau, and Nancy Barth-Miller.

The clinics were held four to five days a week, said Barth-Miller, who helped out at a Bay Ridge medical site, and each one served about 100 people a day.

“The UFT nurses who responded are trained in advanced cardiac life support, which includes CPR, and defibrillation,” Barth-Miller said.

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