Schafer, Shannon: Vaccinate teachers now

Abington school leaders join others asking guv to prioritize teachers

Teachers should be considered front line workers and made eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine immediately, Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer and Abington Education Association President Steve Shannon argue in a letter sent to Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday.

The letter was drafted by the South Shore Roundtable of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and signed by 71 school and union leaders across the region, including Schafer and Shannon.

“We believe it is inarguable that educators are front line workers,” the letter reads. “Given the societal need for public  school — not just public school via Zoom — and the expectations set by your office and DESE,  educators should be vaccinated immediately and without delay so that they can perform their  duties safely and securely.”

It asks that teachers be reclassified and included in Phase 1 of the vaccination roll-out, which would make them eligible to receive the vaccine immediately. Educators are currently included in Part 3 of Phase 2 and not scheduled to receive shots until the spring time.

Massachusetts recently started the first part of Phase 2, which includes seniors over the age of 75.

More than half the nation’s states have prioritized teachers higher than Massachusetts, including Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, New York, Connecticut, and Maine.

Gov. Charlie Baker said last week the state has thousands of unused doses reserved for those included in Phase 1 after a number of emergency response and high-risk residents declined to take the shot.

“One of our big issues here in Massachusetts is [the federal government] gave us way more vaccine . . . than there were actually arms available to vaccinate,” the governor said.

The letter argues that teachers, like first responders, are required to deal directly with dozens of members of the public without maintaining social distancing boundaries.

“The stress and anxiety placed on educators as they continue to put themselves in this  position without the protection of an existing vaccination is unfair and is not in the best  interests of advancing public education in the Commonwealth,” states the letter, which was signed by education officials from Quincy, Cohasset, Middleboro, South Shore Vo-Tech High School, and the North River Educational Collaborative, among others.

The letter cites Center for Disease Control policy that encourages states “to prioritize  the health and wellbeing of our educators” in order to allow students to return to classrooms as much as possible.

Abington Health Agent Marty Golightly said the town is capable of innoculating 1,000 people in one day, which could include every educator in Abington plus hundreds of other community members.

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