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Washington Education Association asks to prioritize teachers for COVID vaccine

Binasa Musovic (L), an educational paraprofessional and Chris Frank, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124, teach blended learning students during the first day back to school on December 07, 2020 at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

The Washington Education Association (WEA) is asking local officials to prioritize any teachers who are currently working in person with students or are expected to soon to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Virologist: Distribution of COVID vaccine bigger issue than supply

The union’s written position on COVID-19 vaccination says that it believes “in addition to existing workplace health and safety requirements, vaccines are an essential medical tool in preventing infectious diseases.” To be effective, WEA acknowledges that vaccines “must have widespread availability.”

The WEA says any educator regardless of their age should get a COVID shot. They add that it’s important that we vaccinate teachers fully before we start sending kids back to school.

“The WEA encourages widespread use of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccine plans must also ensure equitable access to vaccines in rural, and isolated communities and prioritize educators. The State Department of Health, OSPI, and the Governor’s Office must assist in getting a sufficient supply of vaccine to school districts to ensure all current school district employees who are working in-person with students have the option of receiving the vaccine immediately,” the statement reads. “Before more educators are ordered back to in-person services, every employee must be given access to vaccine shot #1 and shot #2 before resuming in-person services and instruction.”

WEA says all school employees — classified, certificated, full time, part time, and substitutes — including Pre-K through grade 12 and higher education professionals should receive priority access to the vaccine.

Mitigation measures, the WEA notes, will continue to be crucial as well until the efficacy and safety of a COVID-19 vaccine for children is known and studied.

“In addition, the full effect of vaccines on transmission and reinfection is not yet clear. Therefore, ensuring the health and safety of the entire school community means that strict adherence to current workplace health and safety requirements must remain a top priority,” the statement reads.

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau has called on Gov. Jay Inslee — as well as state and county health leaders — in a written letter to give higher COVID-19 vaccine prioritization to educators and school district personnel before they return to the classroom.

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent calls for higher vaccine prioritization for educators

SPS is currently set to resume in-person instruction on March 1, 2021, for about 10,000 Pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, and specific Special Education grade bands. Juneau also requested all educators be eligible to receive the vaccine, regardless of their age.

“It does not make sense to have an age limit of ‘over 50’ for educational professionals,” Juneau said in her letter. “Our top priority must be to keep our staff, students, and communities physically safe, as well as mentally and academically healthy.”

Teachers of grades K-12 and school staff above the age of 50 are listed in the state’s Phase 1B-2 as it stands now, expected to start in February. Those under 50 may have to wait until April for Phase 1B-4.

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