K-12 teachers, child care workers, and school staff will be able to register for COVID-19 vaccinations at any of the 170 distribution locations within Massachusetts beginning on March 11.
The Commonwealth’s vaccine rollout plan will now prioritize educators, Governor Charlie Baker said at a press conference Wednesday. Baker’s announcement follows President Joe Biden’s announcement on Tuesday that the United States will have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May.
The Biden administration also said it would administer at least one dose of the vaccine to teachers nationwide by the end of March. This marks a change from the original Mass. rollout plan which originally placed this group, of around 400,000 people, within the third group of the Phase 2 rollout, following the current group of those 65 years and older and those with two comorbidities.
Vaccines will be available through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a vaccine supplier for CVS and other pharmacies, Biden said on Tuesday. Following the announcement, CVS opened appointments to teachers on Wednesday morning.
Biden said that over 30 states have prioritized educators in their vaccination plans and he is overseeing that the remaining states do the same.
When asked about the lack of immediate eligibility for teachers following Biden’s announcement, Baker said that current guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not require the vaccination of teachers prior to the reopening of schools.
“I don’t see how we can choose to take vaccines away from people who are … significantly at risk of hospitalization and death from COVID,” Baker said.
Baker also noted that many people within the currently eligible groups are still waiting to be vaccinated.
Despite the reopening of some schools, there is still no approved COVID-19 vaccine for children. While children and teenagers are more likely to be asymptomatic for the virus, according to the CDC, they are still able to contract and spread it, potentially putting teachers at risk.
In response to Baker’s announcement, teachers across the state expressed their relief. For Merrie Najimy, Massachusetts Teachers Association president and a teacher for 30 years, it was a “huge victory” for students and school employees. Merrie Najimy, Massachusetts Teachers Association president and a teacher for 30 years, previously said that Baker’s reopening plan for schools, without the prioritization of educator vaccinations, displayed a “callous disregard” for school communities.
Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken expressed her excitement toward the prioritization of teachers, exclaiming “yes!” during Baker’s press conference.
Baker said the main obstacle in vaccine rollout remains a lack of supplies, as Massachusetts vaccine doses will not be restocked by the federal government until the end of the month.
The state has acquired 58,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines so far, and receives a weekly supply of 139,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, according to Baker. Baker said in a tweet that vaccine supplies remain limited and it will take approximately one month for those currently eligible to book an appointment.
“Our state and the nation and the world [all] desperately want to put an end to the pandemic,” Baker said. “The process has been difficult, but through the frustrations we should all keep in mind that if we are patient, everyone who wants [a vaccine] will eventually get one.”
Featured Image by Johnathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff