Massachusetts educators are eagerly waiting to become eligible for their first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as the state continues Phase 2 of its coronavirus vaccination process.
Educators were initially slated to begin receiving vaccines as early as February, but the state has yet to say exactly when they will become eligible.
Teachers, including those in early education and K-12 schools, are part of the second phase in the state’s vaccination process, which began on Feb. 1. The first priority group in Phase 2, those ages 75 and older, became eligible to begin signing up for vaccine appointments on that day.
Educators and other essential workers, including those working in food service, sanitation, and public works, were originally slated to be in the second priority group under Phase 2, but they were moved down in priority when the state moved up people ages 65 and older.
The next group to become eligible for the vaccine will be people ages 65 and older and those with two or more comorbidities.
Teachers will become eligible along with grocery store employees, transit workers, public health workers, and more. School nurses and other therapists and behavioral health staff are already eligible to be vaccinated. People with just one comorbidity will follow that group of essential workers in prioritization.
The presidents of the state’s two largest teachers unions both said when the state’s initial vaccine timeline was announced that they supported it. At the time, they called on Governor Charlie Baker to simultaneously provide schools with other tools, such as COVID-19 surveillance testing and other short-term safety measures to make in-person school safer for everyone.
But in recent weeks, the unions have been upset over the reprioritization of teachers and the likely delay for educators to get vaccinated.
“The governor keeps pushing schools to reopen for in-person learning more quickly, regardless of the risks to staff and students, yet he has just made it much harder to do that safely,” Beth Kontos, president of American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, said in a statement when the new prioritization was announced in January.
The teachers unions expected the change to delay vaccines for educators by several weeks.
“It’s like the Hunger Games,” Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said in the same statement as Kontos. “They are forcing communities to compete with one another for a scarce resource rather than establishing a fair system with clear rules. The Baker administration must do a better job of balancing the needs of people at risk because of age and other factors with recognizing that people working with students need to be vaccinated.”