Updated at 7:30 p.m. March 3, 2021 to include comment from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins
All teachers, school workers and educators in Texas can now receive COVID-19 vaccines thanks to a change in federal drug policy.
Texas State Department Commissioner of Health Services Dr. John Hellerstedt on Wednesday sent a letter to vaccine suppliers in the state, advising them that a federal directive immediately expands vaccine eligibility to include ” those working in and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff and bus drivers) and those working as or for licensed child care providers , including center and family care providers. “
The policy change came a day after President Joe Biden urged states to prioritize teachers on vaccination lists, using guidelines from federal pharmacies to do so.
“My challenge is this: we want every educator, school staff, early childhood worker to receive at least one vaccine by the end of March,” Biden said at a press conference Tuesday. to the White House.
Vaccinating teachers is a key pillar in Biden’s drive to reopen schools within the first 100 days of his tenure.
The change also comes a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his statewide mask tenure effective March 10, with no indication of what public schools should do in his absence. .
The Texas Education Agency released updated health guidelines for public schools on Wednesday, indicating that current protocols – including masks – would remain in place unless a local school board votes to lift these requirements.
Pharmacy giant CVS Health changed its policy on Wednesday to make educators and staff in elementary and secondary schools, as well as early childhood workers, eligible to receive a vaccine.
In a statement, the company said the move “complied with updated federal retail pharmacy program guidelines” and would occur in all 17 states – including Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana – where CVS currently offers. COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccines will be made available to educators by appointment only at the approximately 100 selected CVS pharmacies across Texas that administer the injections. Teachers can register through CVS.com or its CVS Pharmacy app, and those without online or mobile access can call the company’s customer service: (800) 746-7287.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins took to social media Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, posting an article on Biden’s decision and promising that the first group of teachers would receive their vaccines by next week – tagging Dallas, Garland, Richardson and Irving ISD in his posts.
Jenkins explained on Wednesday that those injections would come through the expansion of the federal program that sends doses directly to pharmacies. Vaccines assigned to federal sites and approved by counties are likely to be difficult to find, he said.
There is a backlog of around 750,000 people on the Dallas County waiting list, and teachers would add to that total, Jenkins said. He added that it was not clear whether the federal government’s Fair Park location would expand its mission to include teachers under Biden’s new leadership.
Jenkins and state officials are discussing the county’s vaccine allowance, which has been proportionately reduced by the state since the federal government opened a site in Fair Park targeting residents of the most vulnerable areas. poor and underserved county.
“For teachers, it will be, ‘Sign up in as many places as you are willing to drive,” Jenkins said. “And that probably won’t stop until the state stops diverting vaccines from Dallas and Tarrant County.”
Dallas ISD spokeswoman Robyn Harris said the district “is still collecting information” on what the two changes could mean for its 20,000 employees.
Prior to the change, Texas had prioritized vaccinations for frontline medical workers, nursing home residents, people 65 and older, and those 16 and older with at least one chronic illness. which put them at a higher risk of serious illness from the coronavirus.
While thousands of teachers and child care providers have been vaccinated under these guidelines, thousands more have not. Texas public school districts alone have 750,000 employees, including 365,000 teachers.
Texas was among those that did not prioritize teachers despite offering in-person learning statewide.
Rena Honea, president of the Dallas teachers’ union Alliance AFT, said she was “absolutely thrilled” with the announcement and that educators and support staff were “finally recognized” for their important roles during the pandemic.
“Those who were called to work on the front lines needed this protection, but at this point, unless they fell into one of these existing groups, they couldn’t get it,” Honea said. “It brings us back to where we needed to be from the start.”
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