Educators are Essential and Should be Vaccinated Now

Marilyn Regan

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It doesn’t make any sense.

One of the priorities during COVID has been to get children back into the classroom. Yet vaccinating teachers, as a group, has not been a priority in several states, and within states, from county to county.

Although there’s the issue of availability of the vaccine, educators appear to be receiving low priority despite the fact many have been mandated to return to the classroom and have died from COVID as a result.

The American Federation of Teachers estimates that 530 members died of COVID last year. In Georgia, three elementary school teachers died in one month. 

In MA, where I live teachers will not be eligible until Phase 2 rolls around which is not for quite a while. Phase 1, it appears, has many layers. 

There’s quite a ways to go.

The Current Situation

I am related to two MA teachers, both working in the classroom, and neither can receive the vaccine.

One works at a school where vaccines are being distributed and she is forced to walk past it every day. And to keep going. 

Talk about a slap in the face.

They say they don’t know why teachers are given such low priority. And yes, being in Phase 2, Group 3 is certainly pretty low on the priority list.

Several states include teachers in Phase 1B, Group 1.

In Hawaii, teachers are included in the “frontline essential worker” category. This is also the case in Minnesota, where teachers and K-12 staff, and child care workers have been given access under the community vaccine program. Same with Nebraska.

But in a state that values education, it is falling short in terms of valuing its teachers. 

The Phases

Healthcare workers were the first to receive the vaccine. No argument here. Those on the frontline are taking the biggest risk and should be first. But from there on in, it differs.

Here’s the breakdown in MA.

Phase 1B1 — (Tier 1)

All people over 70 and people over 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households.

Phase 1B2 — (Tier 2)

High-risk critical care workers who work in groups and are over 50 years old. This includes food processing and grocery store workers; K-12 teachers and staff; childcare workers; corrections, prison, and jail staff; public transit and fire and law enforcement.

Phase 1B3 — (Tier 3)

People 16 years or older with two or more comorbidities or underlying conditions such as cancer, kidney disease, pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, to name a few.

Phase 1B4 — (Tier 4)

High-risk critical care workers in group settings under 50 and people, staff, and volunteers of all ages in group settings such as group homes, homeless shelters, or people who are homeless.

Phase 2 

Group 1

Everyone 75 years of age and over. Finally.

Group 2

Individuals 65+ and those with two or more of certain medical conditions (listed below in Group 4) and/or residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing.

Group 3 — Teachers

Early education teachers, K-12, teachers, grocery, food, transit and restaurant workers, and those in agriculture.

And might I add, grocery store workers, who were forced to work at the pandemic height, do not appear to be getting the priority they deserve.

But I digress.

Supply and Demand

Mayors and governors in some states claim they have run out. Biden is working to overhaul the country’s effort, but both Pfizer and Moderna are working full steam ahead, releasing 12–18 million doses each week. 

But with an adult population of 260 million, we are a long way off from having enough. And children under 16 are not included in that number. 

Johnson & Johnson, the one-shot dose, is expected to announce its trials' results and begin distribution in February. This should make a tremendous difference in the number of vaccines. 

But the shortage of supply still does not address the situation with teachers.

If our children’s education and getting kids back to school is one of the highest priorities, then taking care of those who teach them should also be a top priority.

My father was a teacher. They were lesson plans and papers to grade from several classes. Yes, teachers take their work home with them. He stayed at work late, worked on committees, and was never paid overtime. 

Doing extra work for nothing is not something expected in other professions. But there is no overtime for teachers. 

And denying them priority access to this vaccine is another example of the value people place on them.

Photo by Mira Kireeva on Unsplash

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Marilyn is a writer, yogi, spiritual medium and animal lover. She is a Bostonian in every sense and has the accent to prove it. She loves the ocean, the outdoors, wine, and sleeping in. She days what she means and doesn't waste words. Finally, she is mother to one son, two cats and has three grandchildren.

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