In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. Credit: LM Otero / AP

The reported staff vaccination rate for RSU 3 in Waldo County has jumped considerably since last month when Maine Department of Education data indicated that the rural district had some of the lowest in the state.

Now, the current figures indicate that RSU 3 teachers and other staff members are in line with or better than the Waldo County average of 85.6 percent vaccinated. Only Hancock, Knox, Cumberland and York counties show a higher average school staff vaccination rate.

“We reiterated the importance of this, in part because of the press we got last time,” Superintendent Charles Brown said Monday. “I think we got a much better response rate from staff … Our rates are much more in line with reality.”  

The first RSU 3 vaccination rate numbers reported by the state were very low. They ranged from zero percent at Walker Memorial School in Liberty to 42.9 percent at Mt. View Middle School in Thorndike.

“At the start of the year, it was one more thing [for staff members to do], because it was new,” Brown said.

He said that the district did its best to get good data for the month of August, but it was an uphill battle. It is optional for staff members to fill out the monthly surveys and many didn’t respond at the beginning of the school year. State officials recorded staff members who did not participate as being unvaccinated.

There is a lag before the numbers are released by the state, meaning that the average vaccination rates for September were released around mid-October. The October figures will be released by the state sometime in November.

District officials did make corrections to those initially reported numbers for August, Brown said, showing the actual vaccination rates were much higher than the state had first published.

In general, the numbers for September increased even more.

The vaccination rate numbers for September are 90 percent at Walker Memorial School, 100 percent at Troy Central School, 97 percent at Mt. View Middle School in Thorndike, 100 percent at Mt. View High School, 91.2 percent at Mt. View Elementary School and 64.3 percent at Morse Memorial School in Brooks. No new information was available for Unity Elementary School, although the August numbers had the rate at 80 percent. The lack of updated information is likely due to low staff numbers at that school, Brown said.

Among the largest month to month increases was the vaccination rate of staff at the Monroe Elementary School, reported to be just 28.6 percent in August, but which rose to 100 percent in September.

The district employs approximately 300 staff members.

Numbers may fluctuate a little, he said. For example, the vaccination rate at Mt. View High School was 100 percent in August but decreased to 83.3 percent in September. That’s because it’s a monthly survey that counts the staff working at the school every month. More staff members, including coaches and other personnel, were employed by the district in September than had been in August, Brown said.

“I think it gives a general number for the public, but it’s not an exact number,” he said of the state vaccination rate data. “I think that’s what people need to understand. It’s not exact.”

Statewide, nearly 80 percent of school staff are fully vaccinated, according to the dashboard on the website of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.