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Teachers Get Priority to Vaccinate but Still There Are Things to Worry About

 
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on health care systems worldwide. To date, 29.5 million cases have been reported in the United states with about 554,000 deaths. Likewise, a total of 120 million cases have been reported worldwide, while there have been 2.65 million deaths.

The vaccines that were made available since the end of 2020 have been a ray of light against the backdrop of the dark pandemic clouds. It gave hope to essential workers globally who were expecting to receive some of the first vaccinations.

It’s obvious that healthcare workers should be first in line because they face the pandemic head on every day. But while combating the pandemic has always been about saving lives, it’s also about allowing the economy to function and limiting long-term harm to the economy and a generation of schoolchildren.

Protecting a generation of schoolchildren involves being prepared when schools reopen for full-time in-person classes. This means that, by implication, teachers should also be amongst the first to be vaccinated. As much was also borne out by the CDC’s recommendations on the vaccine rollout.

This post will look at the CDC’s recommendation, the current status of teacher vaccinations, and the reason why teachers should be first in line to be vaccinated.

Why Teachers Need to Be Vaccinated First?

In simple terms, teachers need to be vaccinated first in order to keep schools open.

At the pandemic’s peak in April 2020, nationwide school closures disrupted the learning of almost 90% of learners globally. While that number has decreased since, there’s still is an assumption that closing schools may slow the virus and the disease despite convincing evidence that schools are not a driver of community transmission. Because of this assumption, many countries around the world are closing schools yet again to prevent transmission.

So, the thinking is that, when teachers are vaccinated, this will protect them against the virus and ultimately keep schools open. And it’s certainly true. While children are less likely to be severely affected by COVID-19, 40% of teachers are over 50 and 20% are over 60. Considering this, it’s worth it to protect teachers in order to facilitate schools reopening. Also, because of this, the majority of teachers favored online education during the start of the fall term, but as infections started to rise, there was once again a push to prevent schools from reopening.

So, at its core, the decision to vaccinate teachers is about safeguarding the future of our next generation by keeping schools open.

The CDC’s Vaccine Rollout Recommendations

Because the US supply of vaccines was expected to be limited at first, the CDC made recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first.

These recommendations were made with the following goals in mind:

  • Decreasing death and serious disease as much as possible.
  • Preserving functioning of society.
  • Reducing the extra burden the pandemic is having on people who are already facing disparities.

It’s important to keep in mind that these were only recommendations made by the CDC and that each state could develop its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated first and how they will receive vaccines.

In their recommendations, the CDC recommended that healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered the vaccine first.

After this group, the CDC recommended that frontline essential workers and people aged 75 years and older receive the vaccine next. Frontline essential workers, according to the CDC, are workers such as firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the educational sector, including teachers and support staff.

The CDC also stated that, as the vaccine availability increases, the vaccine recommendations will expand to include more groups into the initial vaccination plants.

The Current Position

Although President Joe Biden has said that he wants to see most US schools reopen by May across the US, the availability of vaccines to teachers have become somewhat of a lottery with the vaccine available in some areas, while in others no vaccines are available for teachers.

For example, in West Virginia, all teachers over the age of 50 who said that they wanted the vaccine have already received it. In Ohio, a plan was set in motion to have all teachers vaccinated by the end of February with the ultimate goal being to open schools on one March.

Other states like Rhode Island and Vermont, however, were not prioritizing any specialized groups other than healthcare workers and they were distributing vaccines strictly by age. This means that teachers in the states teachers were not getting vaccinated.

Of the 28 states that have made teachers eligible to receive vaccines, there was still the matter of availability of vaccines. It’s simply a question of supply and demand and, at that stage, the demand was far greater than the supply. There were also 22 states where teachers were not eligible to receive the vaccine as a specific group.

Remember, although the CDC made recommendations on the vaccine rollout, states were not bound by it and could develop their own vaccine rollout plans.

However, President Joe Biden announced plans, in a push to the open schools following the CDC’s release of school reopening guidelines in late January, to have every teacher vaccinated by the end of March.

As a result, more than half of the states which set their own priorities on who could get access to COVID-19 vaccines first have now opened up their eligibility criteria to teachers. But the problem with availability still persists and there is no vaccine available for all teachers.

Another, maybe bigger problem, is that almost no one knows how many teachers are getting the vaccine or refusing to get them. States have not been keeping track of school employee vaccinations even after the government prioritized the vaccination of teachers nationwide.

Although vaccines are not strictly required for teachers to return to school and it remains their choice, the absence of data complicates the decisions of parents who have concerns about health risk levels and some teachers’ unions’ calls for widespread vaccinations as a condition of reopening schools.

This situation is simply untenable, both for the parents who have health concerns and for the teachers’ unions who are concerned about the reopening of schools.

The perfect way to solve this problem is by controlling and tracking the vaccinations. TrueCare24 offers an excellent tool for remote COVID control and vaccination tracking. This aims to solve the problem in two ways:

  • Parents’ and teachers’ unions will know how many teachers have been vaccinated and their concerns will be addressed in respect of the reopening of schools.
  • States will know how many teachers have been vaccinated which to a large extent will solve the supply and demand problem.

Final thoughts

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating and had a significant effect on the education sector because of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and health concerns. It’s easy to see why parents, teachers, and teachers’ unions have these concerns considering the severity of the disease.

Vaccines, however, can go a long way in alleviating their concerns about the reopening of schools. By properly tracking and controlling the vaccinations on a school level, these concerns can be sufficiently alleviated for the schools to the open, and, more important, safeguard the future of our next generation.

References:

  1. Teachers Should Get the Covid Vaccine First

  2. Teachers should be prioritized for vaccination against COVID-19

  3. CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Recommendations

  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/01/03/teachers-coronavirus-vaccines/

  5. Here are the states allowing teachers to get Covid-19 vaccines

  6. Teacher vaccinations go untracked amid school reopening push

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