Schooled Reporting on education

Vaccine rollout reaches teachers

Education | Uneven distribution and limited supplies mean it could be a while before classes go back to normal
by Esther Eaton
Posted 1/20/21, 02:54 pm

Starting shortly after noon on Jan. 14, teachers in Mariposa County, Calif., rolled up their sleeves in an elementary school for their first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now that the rural county has inoculated most of its healthcare workers, it is moving on to educators, who have worked in-person since October. About 70 percent of the school district’s staff have signed up for their first dose, according to Superintendent Jeff Aranguena.

State officials, administrators, and educators are eager to get teachers vaccinated and return to more normal, in-person classes as quickly as possible. By mid-January, at least some teachers in 12 states were eligible to receive a COVID-19 shot, EducationWeek reported. But distribution is uneven across the country’s school districts. Efforts have begun in hopes of getting back to school as usual by the fall.

Children catch and spread COVID-19 less often than adults, allowing some schools to reopen when other gatherings remained off-limits. But some schools have been forced to go remote after outbreaks among teachers and other personnel caused staffing shortages. Vaccinating educators could prevent similar closures and provide protection if more contagious strains of COVID-19 spread among students.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines to help officials decide when different groups of people can access the country’s limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, but each state has its own protocols. Most are offering shots to healthcare workers and nursing home residents in the first wave, with teachers and other essential workers next in line. But execution isn’t consistent even within a single state. Teachers in Prince William County, Va., complained after their district fell behind and those in neighboring Fairfax County, who were teaching fewer in-person classes, got the shots first.

As long as the COVID-19 vaccines only have emergency use authorization, employees like teachers have the right to refuse them. Once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants full approval, schools may require teachers to be immunized, though they would have to offer religious and health exemptions in most cases. For now, schools are relying on teachers to choose to get the shot. Joe Haas, executive director of the North Carolina Christian School Association, predicted private schools will leave the decision to parents and teachers.

With limited doses, it may be months before most teachers receive a shot. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said that, after widespread vaccination, schools could return to normal in the fall.

“I think we could be in good shape, and so I am cautiously optimistic that we can do that and get back to some form of normality,” he said. “It’s extremely important to get children back into school and kept in school, and the idea of vaccinating teachers is very high up in the priority.”

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  • Nanamiro
    Posted: Wed, 01/20/2021 04:25 pm

    I don't understand why high risk people are not first on the list for vaccinations. Aren't they the priority? According to Fauci and other doctors, the vaccine will not necessarily prevent vaccinated  people from spreading the virus to others. They say it only eliminates symptoms in the vaccinated. If this is true, why aren't high risk people being protected? That would greatly reduce the rate of death. Very strange.

  • CJ
    Posted: Wed, 01/20/2021 09:22 pm

    I suppose it's up to states and local governments how the vaccine is given but, in my area, high risk people are getting the vaccine, as well as hospital workers, first responders, nursing homes, and seniors over 65. You should speak to your local representatives about your concern. 

  • CFCRuss
    Posted: Thu, 01/21/2021 08:29 am

    Dear Esther,

    In your sub-title, you wrongly used the term "awhile" where it should have been "a while". I see that error and "apart" too often from my graduate students. Please don't encourage the use of words put together wrongly. See the quote below from grammarly,

    "Awhile is an adverb which means “for a period of time.” A while is a noun phrase which means “a period of time."


    PS. Great article that should be of interest to my teacher daughter in CA. I'm sending it to her.

  • WORLD’s Mickey McLean
    Posted: Thu, 01/21/2021 11:57 am

    Thank you for pointing out the error. We have corrected it Note: Headlines and decks (aka subheads) are usually written by the editors, not the writer of the article, so Esther is not at fault.