Mass. Legislators and Educators Push Back on Vaccine Companion Program

Massachusetts' decision to let people accompanying those 75 and older to coronavirus vaccine appointments receive the vaccine themselves is drawing condemnation from teachers, who have been seeking higher priority

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Massachusetts' plan to allow those who accompany people 75 and older to COVID-19 vaccine appointments to get shots themselves has been met with strong pushback, including from educators.

A group of more than 20 legislators sent a four-page letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders.

"Pump the brakes. Go back to the drawing board. Slow this whole companion vaccination system down," Rep. Tami Gouveia said of what the lawmakers want the state to do.

Gouveia says it's dangerous, pointing to people soliciting eligible seniors online and offering money to be their companions so they can get vaccinated, too.

"You're talking about getting into a car with someone you don't know," she said. "Someone who is saying they will pay you to accompany you to the vaccination site."

There are also complaints that adding companions to the list pushes others further down -- including teachers.

In Boston Public Schools, there are 3,000 teachers working in person, and there have been more than 150 cases of COVID-19.

"The state should have followed the recommendation of the CDC to prioritize not just 65 and older folks, but also K-12 educators," said Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union.

Since they didn't, the teachers union is trying to match working teachers with eligible retired educators so both can get vaccinated. But Tang says they'd rather not do it like this.

"I think the right way to do it would absolutely be to have educators be able to be vaccinated now as frontline workers who are in contact with dozens of students each day," she said.

Tang points out more than 30 states have already prioritized educators and people over 65. The teachers union has joined eight other public service unions, sending a letter to Sudders asking her to prioritize their workers.

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