Massachusetts educators are expected to be offered their first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as February as part of the second phase in the state’s vaccination plan, state officials said Wednesday as they unveiled their timeline.
Broken into three phases, Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccination process is slated to begin as soon as a vaccine has been approved by federal regulators and vaccine doses are received by the state. Health care workers, residents in long-term care facilities, and police, fire, and emergency responders will be in the first phase.
Educators, including those in early education and K-12 schools, are slated to be offered the vaccine in the second phase, which is slated to begin in February if all goes as planned.
During Phase 2, the following groups will be vaccinated, in order of priority: individuals with 2+ comorbidities (high risk for COVID-19 complications); early education, K-12 teachers and staff, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health workers; people age 65 and older; and people with one comorbidity.
Presidents of the state’s two largest teachers unions both said Wednesday they support the timeline. But Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said steps need to be taken to make schools safer ahead of widespread vaccination.
“No matter how early we are placed in the timeline, we absolutely have to have other safety measures in place,” she said. “The governor has to control the spread in the community which is now out of control.”
The MTA called on Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday to provide all schools with COVID-19 surveillance testing “to determine whether anyone getting on the bus and walking through the school doors is a carrier, potentially an asymptomatic one,” the group wrote in a statement.
Najimy said Wednesday that vaccines and testing are both important tools to ensuring that schools are safe enough to bring everyone back in person.
“It never is one metric or one tool that is gonna allow us to get back to the buildings,” she said. “It’s the way that they work as a system.”
Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, said after the announcement Wednesday that she is comfortable with the state’s timeline, but wants to make sure they prioritize school nurses and communities that have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, such as Chelsea, Lawrence, and Lynn.
“If you’re going to rank educators,” she said, “I want those educators to be at the front of the line if they want to be.”
Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, also emphasized the need for short-term safety measures, such as adequate personal protective equipment, quality air ventilation, and rapid testing for educators and students.
“As exciting as news of a vaccine is,” she said in a statement, “we cannot operate under the assumption that vaccination will immediately eradicate COVID-19 in our schools, nor should we delay any of the other necessary measures to bring our students back into schools as quickly and safely as possible.”