Massachusetts Educators Can Start Enrolling COVID-19[female[feminine immunization appointments next week, Gov. Charlie Baker said on Wednesday.
Appointments will be available for K-12 employees, daycares and school staff from March 11, Baker said after a visit to West Parish School in Gloucester with Education Secretary James Peyser and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
The announcement comes a day after President Joe Biden said he was urging all states to prioritize teachers for vaccinations, a news hailed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Baker said the state wants to stay consistent with federal vaccination regulations, but people will have to be patient as the state expects more vaccines. The state receives about 150,000 first doses of the vaccine each week, Baker said. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are two-dose injections. The newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine is just an injection.
“The big challenge here is the supply available and it has been more or less so from the start,” said Baker, adding that the state has the capacity to vaccinate many more residents than it has doses of. vaccine.
There are about 400,000 kindergarten to grade 12 educators, day care workers and kindergarten to grade 12 school staff in Massachusetts, officials said. The state estimates that it will take a month for all eligible people to get a first appointment based on the current vaccine supply.
With pressure from education officials in Baker and Massachusetts for more students to return to classrooms, and a return to five days of in-person learning possible for elementary school students starting next month, educators and their unions have been frustrated by the wait to get vaccinated.
Riley told the Elementary and Secondary Education Council that he plans to seek permission to determine when blended and distance learning will no longer be an option for districts.
Riley said he hopes elementary students will learn in person five days a week in April.
Baker said on Wednesday the board would discuss granting that authority to Riley on Friday. The Republican governor said about 80% of Massachusetts schools offer some form of blended or in-person learning, but officials still want to see more students in school more often.
Massachusetts has been in phase 2 of its vaccination program since the start of last month. So far in this phase, senior residents and people with at least two comorbidities have been able to get vaccinated, but teachers have not yet been able to get vaccinated.
Although teachers and school staff can secure appointments, there will be competition for appointments. Baker was asked if teachers would have a “fast lane” to get vaccinated.
Baker says there are still “a significant number” of people over 65 with two co-morbidities who need doses. He also said that 90% of the deaths were in people aged 65 and over.
“We want everyone in these groups to get vaccinated, but unless we get a significant amount of extra supply, it will take some time for people to work their way through the system,” did he declare.
Baker said he did not see how the administration could withdraw doses from others to speed up inoculations from educators.
“We think teachers should definitely be a part of the game starting next week and that they can make appointments,” Baker said, “and if the federal government dramatically increases the supply to help states to implement this White House directive, that will be great because we have the capacity in Massachusetts to do a lot more vaccinations than we actually have available vaccine. ”
However, it appears that the state is planning to hold “special days” to vaccinate educators.
Baker also said his administration was surprised to learn that Massachusetts would only receive 58,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that more doses would not be expected until the end of the month.
“If I’ve learned anything from the start it’s how important it is for people who want a vaccine to get it, how important it is to put it in the arms of people who are they ones at risk or working on those who are at risk, ”Baker said.
Early Wednesday, the CVS website listed Kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers, daycare and preschool staff in Massachusetts as eligible for the vaccine. A CVS spokesperson said the company was aligning with updated federal retail pharmacy program guidelines by scheduling appointments with educators.
Previously, the CDC had stated teachers’ vaccinations are not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools. The CDC and the Biden administration have said that schools can reopen safely with mitigation efforts like masking and distancing.
In addition to masking and distancing, Massachusetts has implemented a group testing program for students and staff, as part of an effort to keep more children in the classroom.
As of Monday, 171 schools and districts signed up for the group testing program. DESE is covering the launch funding for the program and has extended its funding commitment from March 28 to April 18.
MassLive reporter Steph Solis contributed to this story.