MONROE, N.C. — Hundreds of Union County teachers and child care workers will receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday as the county hosts a vaccine clinic for eligible members of Group 3.
The clinic will be held at the Union County Agricultural and Conference Center in Monroe. Union County Public Schools is partnering with Atrium Health to put on the two-day clinic, which is open to all employees who work with kids in grades K-12, as well as child care facilities.
Vaccinations at the clinic will be done by appointment only and are open to people who don't live in Union County.
"Seeing them with the masks on is hard and I know that's not going to go away anytime soon, but I just miss their smiles," said Polly Rowell, a kindergarten teacher. "I'm hoping this is one step closer to us not having to do this and our kids getting to be kids again."
Rowell can see the light at the end of the tunnel after getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. She's been in person the majority of the week since the start of the school year.
The school district estimates that by the end of the weekend, 65% of its employees will be vaccinated. The vaccines are a step towards getting back to in person learning full time.
"We are continuing to offer in person learning, we really are seeing value in that. so for us as a school system, having this extra layer of protection for our employees is really really important," said Dr. Andrew Houlihan, the Superintendent of Union County Public Schools.
Superintendent Houlihan rolled up his sleeve too.
"Definitely exciting, nerve wracking a little bit," he said of the experience.
Everyone who gets the vaccine this weekend will go back in 3 weeks for the second dose.
"Having a sense of normalcy so that we can continue on with the traditions that we have in our classrooms and share with our families will be wonderful," said Rowell.
Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.
Earlier this month, Jennifer Comer, a high school teacher in Union County, who was able to get a vaccine because of a deal with the health department. Comer, who is over 50, said she wanted everyone to become eligible for the vaccine as soon as possible.
The health department in Union County said the partnership with Atrium Health has allowed them to focus on getting shots into the arms of the current groups they're serving, including seniors over 65.