Everyone wants to reopen schools safely. Safe Schools is a bipartisan issue. Vaccination access for teachers is a critical step to getting kids back in the classroom. Teachers in Texas are now eligible for Covid-19 vaccination. Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released new guidance moving teachers up to the 1B category.
This week, the Biden administration sent all states notice to change the vaccine categories. According to a DSHS news release, Texas vaccine providers may now vaccinate teachers and childcare workers.
Educators who work in all school systems and those employed in daycare centers and Head Start programs are eligible for vaccination.
Texas Covid-19 vaccination access is improving. The enactment of the defense production act allows pharmaceutical giant Merck to help Johnson and Johnson to produce the Janssen vaccine in massive amounts. We are on track to provide vaccines for every adult American by the end of May.
Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies is the vaccine arm of Johnson & Johnson. The Janssen vaccine is now approved for use in people 18 years and older. It only requires a single dose to be effective. The two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines continue to be available.
There is some confusion about which vaccine to take. The most important thing to know is all three vaccines are very effective.
Each approved vaccine has different efficacy rates. The Janssen vaccine is 72% effective at preventing infection and 86% effective at preventing severe disease. Pfizer and Moderna quote a 95% efficacy rate.
These efficacy rates were not performed as direct head-to-head comparisons. Scientists performed the clinical trials for each vaccine in different parts of the world at various pandemic stages.
Protecting our teachers through vaccination access is critical to the safe reopening of schools. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to remove all Covid-19 restrictions across the state starting March 10 freeing up businesses to open 100%. School superintendents were forced to react quickly to the bizarre and dangerous timing of the executive order.
In response, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) updated the public health guidance for schools. The executive order lifting the mask mandate did not change TEA guidance for schools. Each school district must now determine its updated policy.
Grapevine-Colleyville ISD released a statement on March 5th indicating the district would continue to follow the evidence-based, CDC guidelines. GCISD Superintendent Dr. Robin Ryan stated, "We encourage students and staff to remember the 3 W’s: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance. As more than 70% of GCISD students are currently learning in-person, social distancing is not feasible in many of our classrooms. Therefore the mitigation strategies we can employ, including masks and handwashing, are vital to our ability to return to normal as soon as possible."
New mass vaccine hubs at Denton County's Texas Motor Speedway and Dallas Fair Park are vaccinating thousands of people per day. The Texas Motor Speedway site surpassed the 100,000 person milestone this week.
Dallas opened a new hub on Thursday at South Dallas Megachurch, The Potter's House. This hub will open Thursday through Saturdays by appointment only and plan to issue 1000 doses of the Moderna vaccine each day.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said, "With the governor’s announcement this week, it’s now more important than ever that we get these vaccines out.”
Every parent wants children back in the classroom. Teachers long to see the children’s smiling faces. Grandparents count down the days until they can cheer on the basketball teams, band concerts, and choir performances.
Public vaccine confidence is growing. Vaccination sites are in sites are increasing and the vaccine supply is improving. Many candidates do not know where to get them. Others are not aware they qualify for vaccination.
Currently, vaccine hubs will administer vaccines to those who qualify under category 1A and 1B. Local public health officials encourage all adults to sign up regardless of their status. Only those in the 1A or 1B category will be scheduled but signing up now will allow others to be placed on the waitlist to be called when categories are expanded and more vaccines become available.
Texas category 1B candidates include:
- People 65 years of age and older
- People 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Solid-organ transplantation
- Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
The vaccine rollout program is confusing and challenging to navigate. The Texas Department of Health released an interactive tool today to help. Check it out here.