Starting next week, teachers in Massachusetts will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but many are worried about having to compete with everyone for appointments. They are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to come up with a more streamlined plan.
Debra King, the president of the Watertown Educators Association, cannot believe the state would move teachers up in vaccine priority without releasing more details about how to ensure they will get the shots.
“It just doesn’t make sense. You’re going to throw 200,000 teachers into the cue to get the vaccine that the public is finding impossible to get because of appointments. It’s just going to make it worse,” King said.
If they are left fighting for appointments, she said, there is no way every teacher will be able to get the vaccine before they are forced back into the classroom. The state wants all elementary school students to be learning in-person by next month.
“It’s almost like they needed to carve out a different plan for educators if we wanted to get schools up and running quicker,” Reading Superintendent John Doherty said.
Doherty and several other superintendents in Middlesex County sent a letter to state education officials asking for more details on how the vaccine rollout will work for their staff. School administrators also want to be able to give the shots out locally.
“If they give shots to the local health department, we could have a clinic at our school. Our school nurses are ready to do it. Our paramedics are ready to do it. Our EMTs are ready to do it,” Doherty said.
Baker said there is not enough supply for that just yet, but the state will set aside certain days for teachers at some of the state’s vaccination sites. But with 12,000 appointments snatched up in seconds Thursday, many are worried about what next week will bring when teachers are allowed to sign up.
“There are a lot of things that need to be fixed, and fixed fast,” Megan Schwartz, a high school teacher in Walpole said.
Fortunately, Schwartz was able to book six vaccine appointments at CVS for her colleagues. The company is following federal pharmacy guidelines and allowing teachers to book appointments now, but Schwartz is concerned about those who are not as lucky.
“It’s really kind of scary to think a lot of teachers are going to be out on their own trying to find these vaccine appointments and not being able to because the only time they go live is when they’re in the classroom,” Schwartz said.
Without a plan from the state, teachers are worried they will get appointments during the school day and not be able to get coverage. They are also concerned they will have side effects and have to call out sick.
Since substitute teachers are hard to find during the pandemic, school administrators are hopeful they will be able to host clinics toward the end of the week or on weekends so they have time to recover.