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Teachers Move to the Front of the COVID Vaccine List

Following healthcare workers, teachers say they should be the next to get the vaccine

Kris LaGrange's picture
Dec 04, 2020

With news that a vaccine for COVID-19 could be available by the middle of December, officials are trying to figure out who to vaccinate first. While healthcare workers seem like a no-brainer, teachers union leaders want to make sure that their members are high on the list.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who represents both teachers and healthcare workers, submitted comments to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, arguing that after healthcare workers and nursing home residents, teachers should be next on the list. The committee has previously said that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to get the vaccine as part of “Phase 1a.” Slides from the meeting seem to indicate that the CDC agrees with Weingarten and has included the education sector in “Phase 1b.”

Weingarten argued that by vaccinating teachers and school staff, it will be easier to get schools reopened and students back in physical classrooms. This also means that as more children go back to school, more parents will be able to go back to work outside of the home. “The vaccine must be readily available to them on-site to allow for the safe, orderly and timely reopening of schools,” she wrote in the comment, shared with POLITICO.

In a joint letter from the AFT, NEA, and several other education groups, they also pointed out that the vaccination of teachers will help to build trust within the community for the vaccine.

Surprisingly in 2020, this has bipartisan support. In California, a bipartisan pair of state lawmakers said that school staff should be in line with healthcare workers to receive the vaccine. In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey also said that teachers in his state would be first in line along with health care workers.

"We want our schools open and our teachers protected," he said Wednesday. "We know that our teachers desperately want to get back into their classrooms safely. Teachers are essential to our state so under our plan they will be prioritized."

Some states like New York are projecting that they will get their first shipment of vaccines within the next ten days or so when they are expected to receive 170,000 doses from Pfizer.

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