- Educators are now a priority for COVID-19 vaccinations, with plans to have all people who work at schools and child care centers inoculated by the end of March.
- Experts say these vaccinations are essential for schools to reopen safely.
- There are numerous online sites to help educators make appointments. State health departments, as well as labor unions, can also be helpful.
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President Joe Biden announced plans last week to have every pre-K through-12 educator and child care worker vaccinated by the end of March.
The announcement comes as the push to reopen schools continues following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) release of school reopening guidelines in late January.
More than half of states – which set their own priorities for who gets access to COVID-19 vaccines first – have opened up their eligibility criteria to teachers. But that still leaves many educators for whom the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t yet available.
To expand teacher access to all 50 states, the Biden administration is opening up the
With this move, the program, a coalition of 21 pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks that include Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart, among others, will no longer be bound by state eligibility rules for who gets the vaccine.
“The practical public health challenge is how to get the vaccines to people. That’s where pharmacies can be a huge help,” said Dr. Jan K. Carney, MPH, a professor of medicine and associate dean for public health and health policy at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.
“This initiative will help get more vaccines to people faster, used alongside healthcare settings, health departments, vaccine clinics, and more,” Carney told Healthline. “It’s a great way to help get more people vaccinated faster and our lives moving back toward normal.”
Many experts believe this expansion is a necessary move to making school reopening possible and safe.
“Given the prevalence of kids that report to school sick, many teachers are fearful that kids will report to school either asymptomatic with COVID after exposure or with COVID,” Joseph B. Urban, education attorney at the Clark Hill law firm, told Healthline. “Teachers are nervous that they are stepping into harm’s way in the same way that front line medical workers would be, but without the rigorous protections afforded to such workers. Thus, providing vaccination to the teachers who want them will go a long way toward allaying the anxiety they feel and smooth their return to the classrooms.”
“Prioritizing educators in the vaccine rollout allows them to return to the classroom with greater assurance they will not contract COVID-19,” he added.
Even with this program opening up, there are still many pathways to getting vaccinated depending on the state you live in.
And it’s not always clear what the first steps are.
The first thing educators should know is that the program operates on the honor system.
In some areas, an educator needs to get a code from their school district or union to make an online reservation.
Here’s a few ways you can schedule an appointment:
VaccineFinder.org – This tool operated by epidemiologists and software engineers out of Boston University has partnered with the CDC to collate vaccine availability data and shows the in-stock and out-of-stock status of vaccines at various pharmacies. The tool’s usefulness varies from state to state, however, as not every state provides up-to-date data for the database.
If you’re still stumped, try reaching out to state health departments or teacher’s unions, Urban says.
“For practical considerations and advice, the school district administration, local or state chapter of the NEA or AFT could also be consulted,” he said.
With luck, every teacher who wants a vaccine will be able to get one this month.
“This step helps us on our path to return to the ‘normal’ function of our society — more like our social experiences in non-pandemic times,” Carney said. “Increasing availability of vaccines for child care workers, teachers, and school staff is another step forward as schools and communities work together to ensure access to children’s education.”