"As yet another move to help accelerate the safe reopening of schools, let's treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is. And that means getting essential workers who provide that service — educators, school staff, child care workers — get them vaccinated immediately. They're essential workers," the president said in a press conference on Tuesday.
At least 30 states have already prioritized educators in the queues for vaccines.
In states where educators have been asked to return to in-person work but not prioritized for the vaccine, many teachers were left feeling dismayed.
Today, I am directing every state to prioritize educators for vaccination. We want every educator, school staff mem… https://t.co/6Zr2WamSqB— President Biden (@POTUS) 1614720717.0
"I basically feel like teachers' lives are not being prioritized at all," said one educator from Maine, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity. "I don't know, I feel really devalued."
"As a teacher, I wish nothing more than to be in the classroom with ALL of my students, BUT I would prefer to do so when it's truly safe," a teacher from Massachusetts told us.
"Everyone has different risk levels, but why should teachers be put in such a position and not be provided with a vaccine? Last spring, teachers were hailed as heroes and among the group of 'essential workers,' but somehow, we have since been forgotten," she said.
Another educator from Maine told us that she felt disheartened to work in a system where she was asked to return to in-person instruction for the good of the public—but not prioritized for vaccination.
"I do believe that certain groups who are being asked to take extra risks to support the community should have been offered the vaccine before they switched to a completely age-based process," she said. "Most other states have prioritized their educators in this way, many of whom have not even been teaching in the classroom. It is disheartening to know you are teaching in a state where the education system is not being prioritized in the same way."
With Biden's latest instruction, the President says he's "using the full authority of the federal government" to direct all states and the District of Columbia to prioritize vaccinating educators.
He also said the government would use its program that ships vaccines to local pharmacies to help expedite doses for educators.
Just one day after his announcement, many teachers are already making appointments to get their shots.
CVS Pharmacy is now listing K-12 teachers, daycare, and preschool workers as eligible to receive a vaccine in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Currently, all appointments are booked—but CVS is urging educators to continue checking their website, as they hope to add more appointments soon.
If you're a teacher and would like to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, federal officials want you to head to the CDC website. They say you can find participating pharmacies there, and then sign up directly with that pharmacy.
We agree with this directive: it's time to start treating teachers and educational staff members like the essential workers they are.
These are the men and women who spend time with our children—who nourish them, offer guidance and support, plan lessons and activities, and make sure that our kids thrive.
Educators are essential. It's about time they are recognized as such during this pandemic.