Teachers and school staff members in Brockton, Massachusetts lined up Friday for COVID-19 vaccination shots at a special clinic for educators.
The teachers expressed excitement as they waited for vaccination at the clinic at Shaw’s Center in Brockton, a partnership between the school district and the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.
“I am so excited,” Sarah Watt, a teacher, said. “I’ve been waiting for today I’ve been teaching my students about how important the vaccine is.”
Superintendent Michael Thomas said this day has been a long time coming.
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“I’m so proud of what the teachers and staff have done...it’s been unbelievable. They deserve this day.”
The clinic took place as the state's largest teachers' union butts heads with Gov. Charlie Baker over vaccinations and a full-time return to the classroom, with the administration refusing to divert doses away from mass vaccination sites and other clinics.
A war-of-words erupted after a Thursday morning meeting between union officials, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to discuss vaccinations.
A day earlier, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy had said the state's vaccine rollout for teachers had been "poorly timed" with plans to bring elementary students back to the classroom full-time by April 5, followed by middle schoolers on April 28.
The meeting led to a searing condemnation from the administration of the union's request for doses to be redistributed and administered to teachers and staff locally at schools.
"I am not going to be in a position where I take vaccine away from people who are extremely vulnerable, have multiple medical conditions and are over the age of 65 to give it to a targeted population. We're just not going to play that game," Baker said at an afternoon press conference.
The comments from the governor came after the governor's senior advisor Tim Buckley issued a statement saying the administration "implores the unions to do the math," noting the state receives just 150,000 new first doses a week.
The unions, including the MTA, the American Federation of Teachers and the Boston Teachers Union, accused the administration of "pitting one vulnerable group against another" after what it described as a "cordial" meeting with Sudders.
"The administration's mischaracterization of educators as somehow seeking to take vaccines away from the sick and elderly is untrue and defamatory," said Najimy, AFT-Massachusetts President Beth Kontos, and BTU President Jessica Tang.
The three union leaders said they suggested using doses that had already been designated for teachers at mass vaccination sites and instead deploying them at schools where they could be administered to teachers by firefighters and nurses with minimal disruption to the school schedule.
"The administration is entitled to its opinion on how it has handled the vaccine rollout, but the administration is not entitled to their own facts. From the onset, our unions have advocated for classifying educators as essential workers and for vaccinating them at the same time as others who are eligible within the current phase of the rollout," Najimy, Kontos and Tang said.
Kim Gibson, president of the Brockton Teacher’s Association, said the assertion that teachers were taking vaccines away from vulnerable residents "false," reiterating that the clinic was a partnership with the health center.