When will teachers be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

when will teachers be able to get the covid-19 vaccine
Photo via Phil Roeder/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

President Joe Biden said he would use federal authority to get at least one dose of the COVID vaccine to “every educator, school staff member [and] child care worker” by the end of March—seen by many as a major factor for reopening schools. While most states are making the vaccine eligible for teachers, a few are still not yet moving teachers to the front of the line. 

As the Washington Post reported, Biden’s plan calls for the federal government to use its pharmacy program, starting the week of March 8, to prioritize educators for vaccination and to allow them to sign up for appointments.

“Not every educator will be able to get their appointment in the first week,” Biden cautioned. “But our goal is to do everything we can to help every educator receive a shot this month.”

As the Post article observed, “The status of K-12 education varies widely across the country, with some children able to attend in-person classes five days a week since the fall and others learning at home for nearly a year. Overall, the recent trend is toward more in-person options, with several large districts beginning to open buildings this week.” 

Education Week, keeping a running tally of states adding teachers to their vaccination ranks, notes that there are still 10 states that have not. Two additional states, Vermont and Rhode Island, make appointments based on age and health solely, not factoring profession into the equation. 

New Hampshire, one of the holdout states, is considering Biden’s plan, according to New Hampshire Public Radio, but are “sticking for now with their original plan” of rolling out vaccinations for educators by April.

The article noted that on March 3, “New Hampshire’s top health officials said they plan to let school staff begin signing up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the end of March. Phase 2a of the state’s vaccination plans will make shots available to a broad range of staff working with kids, including K-12 teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, childcare workers, and staff of summer camp programs.” 

South Dakota is another state where teachers are waiting to get vaccinations. Gov. Kristi Noem touted her state’s policy on coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, even though, as CNN noted, South Dakota has the second-highest number of cases per 100,000 residents in the nation. 

The Mitchell (South Dakota) Republic, characterizing teachers as “patiently waiting” for the coronavirus vaccine, reported that the state’s Department of Health indicated that teachers could begin getting vaccination sometime in March.

In Texas, however, the announcement that teachers will be able to get the vaccine came on March 3—on the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial announcement that the state’s mask mandate will be lifted and businesses can operate at 100% capacity should they choose. 

The Dallas Morning News reported that prior to the announcement regarding educators, Texas prioritized vaccinations for front-line medical workers, nursing home residents, people 65 and older, and people 16 and older with at least one chronic medical condition that put them at a higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

“While thousands of teachers and child care providers were inoculated under those guidelines, thousands more were not,” the article noted, adding that “Texas public school districts alone have 750,000 employees, including 365,000 teachers.” 

That article also noted that Texas was among those that did not prioritize teachers despite offering in-person learning across the state.

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Sources: Washington Post, Education Week, NHPR, CNN, Mitchell Reporter, Dallas Morning News

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