Feb 8, 2021 - COVID

Schools are set to reopen without vaccines for teachers

cms school board building charlotte

Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

Despite calls to be bumped up on the priority list, most North Carolina teachers likely won’t have access to the COVID-19 vaccine before schools reopen.

Why it matters: Other than masks, experts say the COVID vaccine is the best way to stop the spread of the virus, and ultimately end the pandemic. But because of limited supply, North Carolina is still working through Group 2 (adults 65 and older) on its vaccination list, and it’s unclear when it’ll move to Group 3, which includes front line workers.

Driving the news: After his call for school districts to “get our children back in the classroom” some teachers are calling for Governor Cooper to move them from Group 3 to Group 2 in order to give them access to the vaccine as schools reopen.

But: The governor’s announcement was essentially a strong request. Local school boards will make the final decision on whether or not to return.

  • CMS superintendent Earnest Winston says the district is ready to return. Right now the plan is to return to in-person learning on February 15, but that’s pending board approval.

What he says: During a February 2 press briefing Cooper addressed the request to prioritize teacher vaccinations.

“I think it’s important to know that the research that’s been done says that the schools can be run in a safe way if following safety protocols,” he said. “So the team is going to continue to work to get vaccine out. Obviously we need more from the federal government.”

The North Carolina Association of Educators started a petition asking Governor Cooper to prioritize teachers for COVID vaccines. The petition has more than 20,000 signatures.

“If Governor Cooper feels so strongly about resuming in-person instruction quickly, then he should support educators and immediately bring the full weight of his office to bear to get all educators vaccinated by the end of this month, just as 25 other states have been able to do,” NCAE president
Tamika Walker Kelly said in a statement.

State of play: Even if teachers were moved up on the vaccination priority list, there would still be a few obstacles to overcome. [Go deeper]

  • Limited supply of COVID vaccines has slowed down the process of getting Group 2 vaccinated. Even if teachers were bumped up the list, it’s likely they’d still have a hard time getting the vaccine, especially those in rural areas.
  • Getting both doses before in-person learning starts again would be difficult because the governor called for a quick reopening of schools.

This week the CDC is expected to weigh in on schools reopening before teachers are vaccinated.


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