‘I Would Like the Shot Yesterday': Mass. Educators Push for Higher Vaccine Priority

Teachers and funeral workers are among those in Massachusetts who feel they should have access to the coronavirus vaccine sooner

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With several groups being moved up in priority to get the coronavirus vaccine in Massachusetts, others feel they are being left behind.

Teachers and funeral workers say they are not trying to judge who is ahead of them in the vaccine line, but they also have to advocate for themselves.

Beth Beaulieu, an instructional coach for Salem Public Schools, cannot help but dream about what she will be able to do in the classroom once she gets the vaccine.

"I picture myself being able to go to the library and checking out books and just doing everything that education was before this," Beaulieu said. "It would have a tremendous impact."

But with Gov. Charlie Baker modifying the state's distribution plan to give priority to seniors, educators like Beaulieu will now have to wait even longer. They are lumped in with other essential workers in the middle of Phase 2.

"It was disappointing to see that. I would like the shot yesterday," Salem Superintendent Steve Zrike said.

Zrike signed a letter, along with administrators from 29 other districts, calling on Baker to move educators up in vaccine priority. He said it is essential if state officials want to see more in-person learning.

"To get us to the end of the year, it is essential to do it as soon as possible. Just having a timeline would help alleviate the anxiety teachers are feeling in schools right now," Zrike said.

Merrie Najimy, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, agrees. She said the union was alarmed to see educators moved down in priority.

"The governor can't have his cake and eat it too," Najimy said. "He's pushing educators sooner into schools, but pushing us further back in line. If he wants us in schools, we need the vaccination sooner rather than later."

Educators are not the only group pushing to be moved up in vaccine priority. Funeral workers say they deserve to be in Phase 1 with other high-exposure workers given how often they have to go into hospitals and nursing homes while caring for the dead.

"We were really puzzled and flabbergasted by our placement," said CR Lyons, who runs a funeral home in Danvers. "And now, while we're happy to know senior citizens will be vaccinated sooner, it still puts us in a situation where we're being vaccinated later."

Lyons is also the president of the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association. The association has written several letters to the governor calling on him to change course and move up the state's 1,900 funeral workers.

"We're out here doing our job. We're caring for the dead and we'd like to be protected in the same way other COVID-facing groups are," Lyons said.

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