State superintendent gives update on teacher vaccination plan

Updated: Dec. 31, 2020 at 9:33 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - State leaders are coming up with a vaccination plan for teachers after the CDC approved recommendations that teachers, support staff and child care workers be among the next round of essential workers to get vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decided last week that Phase 1b will include people 75 and older and “front-line essential workers”.

The plan defines front-line essential workers as “workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and are at substantially higher risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2.”

Front-line essential workers:

  • First responders such as firefighters, police
  • Teachers, support staff, day care workers
  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Correction workers
  • U.S. Postal Service workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Grocery store workers

Phase 1c will include people 65 to 74 and people 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, along with other essential workers.

The Phase 1a rollout is still in progress. It includes healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities.

State Health Officer Scott Harris predicted the rollout for Phase 1b to happen sometime in late January, but nothing has been set in stone.

State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey said they hope to see school staff vaccinated by February or March.

“We don’t have an exact start date yet but we believe it will be imminent within a few weeks,” said Mackey.

Mackey said logistics of getting and distributing the vaccine to teachers is still being worked through with state leaders. He said final decisions all depend on how much of vaccine the state gets for teachers and what vaccine is available.

Also, how teachers will get access to the vaccine is still in question. Mackey said schools can not serve as vaccination sites because school buildings don’t have the capability to store the extra cold vaccines.

“We believe that we’ll have regional sites,” Mackey said. “We don’t know where those sites will be yet or how far people will have to drive to get there.”

“We are hoping that we would be able to set up clinics in communities,” Mackey went on to say. “So it might be at the county health department. It’s possible that, especially in some of our larger school systems, that we might be able to set up a remote clinic at maybe the central office. It is not likely that we will be able to distribute vaccination clinics to each of our 1,500 school campuses across the state.”

Medical leaders have said from the beginning that there is a limited supply of the vaccine. Mackey said they are hoping that by the time the state begins distributing Phase 1b there will be a sufficient amount of vaccines available so that all teachers who want to get vaccinated will have the opportunity to do so.

“At this point that is what we are planning is that everyone will be able to the get the vaccine in pretty short order, as soon as we get into the 1b period,” Mackey said. “We really believe that we will have vaccine for all of our teachers within the next few weeks to two to three months.”

Mackey said they “fully believe” they will have all teachers vaccinated by the end of the school year, but until children are approved to get the vaccine, classrooms will not begin to return to normal until Fall 2021.

For parents that are anxious for their children to return to the classroom, there is some potential good news. Mackey said he predicts that by March of 2021 the state will have most of it’s students back to in-person instruction.

Mackey said teachers will not be required to take the vaccine, but is encouraging all school staff members who qualify to get vaccinated once it becomes available.

“We certainty hope that every teacher who is a healthy candidate for the vaccine will take it, because I believe that will help us get back to school quickly,” Mackey said.

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