Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Teaching Profession

Will Teachers Get Priority for COVID-19 Vaccines?

By Catherine Gewertz — November 23, 2020 3 min read
Matt Richardson teaches his students from Hesston Middle School in the basement of the Cross Winds Convention Center in Hesston, Kan., earlier this month.

Those on the front lines of K-12 teaching should get high priority for COVID-19 vaccines, according to a new survey of superintendents, principals, and teachers.

It’s a question that’s taking on increasing urgency as coronavirus rates surge to alarming levels nationwide. Three companies—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—have announced promising results of clinical trials on their vaccines. They now face an accelerated approval process.

In a survey fielded Nov. 18-19, after Pfizer and Moderna’s announcements, but before AstraZeneca’s, the EdWeek Research Center asked district leaders, principals, and teachers which preK-12 employees should be considered essential workers and receive early access to COVID-19 vaccines. More than 7 in 10 pointed to front-line workers in schools, with teachers, school nurses, and bus drivers topping the list.

Data on PreK-12 employees who should be considered essential workers.

(The nationally representative survey drew responses from 913 preK-12 educators, including 298 district leaders,190 principals, and 425 teachers.)

Teachers and other school-based personnel have been deemed essential workers by many states and school districts, to enable—or in some cases require—them to work even as other businesses shut down due to COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency lists K-12 personnel as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

But it’s not yet clear what priority teachers and other K-12 personnel will be assigned for the new vaccines. Health experts have said that widespread vaccination is key to fully reopening schools for in-person instruction. But they’ve also said it isn’t sufficient. Large-scale vaccination of children is also necessary, they said, and clinical trials on children younger than 12 are only just beginning.

A federal plan released in September suggests that teachers and other K-12 staff could be among the first to get the new vaccines. The first wave is likely to include the elderly, people with health vulnerabilities, and health care providers who work with COVID-19 patients. The second wave is likely to include people who run a higher risk of getting the virus, such as those who work at schools, childcare centers, and colleges.

Leaders in K-12 are pushing for teachers to get high priority for the new vaccines. In September, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten urged federal review panels to include teachers and school staff in the highest-priority group for vaccines. The union’s executive council passed a resolution in October restating the importance of the vaccine for school workers.

Once the Food and Drug Administration approves one or more vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will decide which groups to prioritize for first use. That committee met today, to discuss the framework it will use to evaluate priority for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The National School Transportation Association submitted public comment for today’s advisory committee meeting, arguing that school bus drivers deserve high priority for COVID-19 vaccinations.

It was the only K-12 organization that filed public comments for the November meeting. But it’s still early in the prioritization process, said Walter Orenstein, a professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and a former director of the CDC’s immunization program.

Once the FDA approves vaccines and the CDC advisory panel is considering real options, he said, that’s when input from the public—presumably including K-12 organizations—could start stacking up in the committee’s public comment inbox.

The CDC committee won’t be the universal channel for K-12 input, though. The Council of Chief State School Officers, for instance, says it doesn’t plan to submit comment to the panel. Instead, it aims to channel state superintendents’ voices by partnering them with governors.

“CCSSO has been working to ensure state chiefs are at the table with governors as states design their vaccine distribution plans,” spokeswoman Carolyn Phenicie said in an email.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy
Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy
Project Manager (Contractor)
United States
K12 Inc.
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion What Your Students Will Remember About You
The best teachers care about students unconditionally but, at the same time, ask them to do things they can’t yet do.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Teaching Profession High Risk for COVID-19 and Forced Back to Class: One Teacher's Story
One theater teacher in Austin has a serious heart condition and cancer, but was denied the ability to work remotely. Here is her story.
9 min read
Austin High School musical theater teacher and instructional coach Annie Dragoo has three underlying health conditions noted by the CDC as being high-risk for coronavirus complications, but was denied a waiver to continue working from home in 2021.
Austin High School musical theater teacher and instructional coach Annie Dragoo has three underlying health conditions noted by the CDC as being high-risk for coronavirus complications, but was denied a waiver to continue working from home in 2021.
Julia Robinson for Education Week
Teaching Profession Photos What Education Looked Like in 2020
A visual recap of K-12 education in 2020 across the United States.
1 min read
On Sept. 24, 2020, distance learners are seen on a laptop held by teacher Kristen Giuliano who assists student Jane Wood, 11, in a seventh-grade social studies class at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn. Many schools around the state have closed temporarily during the school year because of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19. Within the first week of November 2020, nearly 700 students and more than 300 school staff around Connecticut tested positive, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Teacher Kristen Giuliano assists Jane Wood, 11, during a 7th grade social studies class in September at Dodd Middle School in Cheshire, Conn., while other students join the class remotely from home.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
Some counties in Indiana began vaccinating teachers this week, ahead of schedule.
4 min read
Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28, 2020.
Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 28.
Courtesy of Valerie Kelly