As part of an effort to get schools safely open again, teachers, school staff, and childcare workers are now eligible nationwide to receive the coronavirus vaccine at no cost, even if their own states haven't yet put teachers on the vaccine priority list. President Joe Biden announced the initiative Tuesday evening, during the same speech in which he said the US will have enough doses of vaccine for all American adults by the end of May.

"Over 30 states have already taken step to prioritize educators for vaccination. And today, I'm using the full authority of the federal government. I'm directing every state to do the same," Biden said. [...]

We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March

So that's a pretty big deal! The folks who are eligible under the new policy can get their shots through a federal program to provide vaccines at pharmacies, as detailed at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Vaccines are currently available at some 9,000 pharmacies, but the CDC plans to ramp up the program to include as many as 40,000 pharmacies as vaccine availability increases.

One might almost get the impression that government, when run by competent people, can actually accomplish things.


The CDC's recommendations for prioritizing vaccinations placed teachers in the second tier, right behind healthcare workers and seniors living in long-term care and nursing homes, but the CDC guidelines left it to states to make their own priority lists. The CDC's recommendations for safely reopening schools repeated the call for states to prioritize educators and school staff, but also didn't say vaccinations were a prerequisite for reopening — other mitigation measures, like masking and social distancing, were the absolute musts. But a lot of educators and teacher unions have also called for teacher vaccinations, for pretty obvious reasons.

And yes, it would be helpful for getting schools reopened if Congress would pass the stimulus bill, which includes funds to help schools reopen.

School reopening could also save California Gov. Gavin Newsom's bacon; he's been getting slammed for the long closures of schools in the state. Newsom and legislative leaders announced a plan this week to get most schools open again in April, and while it doesn't mandate vaccinations, it does set aside 10 percent of the state's vaccine allotment for educators. The federal program to get shots into the arms of teachers and staff should also help make reopening more feasible.

In response to criticism that the policy might shift vaccinations away from low-wage essential workers from communities of color, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in yesterday's White House press briefing that reopening schools will benefit minority communities, and that lots of teachers, school staff, and childcare workers are Black and Latino.

"Getting kids back to school is one of the most equitable steps we can take because what we've seen statistically is that Black and Latino students are disproportionately experiencing learning loss for a variety of reasons," including lack of Internet access and families with fewer resources, Psaki said Wednesday.

"So, our view is actually that this step is one that is meant to help communities of color, help students who are already being disproportionately disadvantaged by schools being closed," she added.

And unlike many teachers and school staff, childcare workers have for the most part kept working right through much of the pandemic, since many essential workers can't exactly work from home.

ABC News also notes that

Teachers wouldn't have to use the pharmacy locations if there's another option to them. The CDC notes on its site that the 9,000 pharmacy locations would be offered to educators in addition to existing state and local COVID-19 vaccination sites, if those states already offer vaccines to teachers.

States will also be able to designate who else can get vaccinated through the pharmacy program.

This is pretty encouraging! If we can just get enough people vaccinated before idiot governors cause a new spike in infections, that would really be nice.

[ABC News / Federal Retail Pharmacy Program site, CDC / Education Week / WaPo / AP]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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