As Massachusetts continues its push for the state’s oldest residents to get vaccinated, pressure is intensifying for teachers to be moved up in the vaccine prioritization list in an effort to get more students back to school in person.
Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano this past weekend said teachers should be moved up in the state’s prioritization list, a message that has been echoed by teachers unions for weeks. The unions were initially satisfied with the state’s vaccine prioritization released in December, but leaders said they were alarmed in January when people 65 and older were moved ahead of many essential workers, including K-12 educators.
“I think if a teacher wants to be vaccinated and is comfortable that the vaccine provides them with the protection that keeps their families safe, yeah I think they should be moved up,” Mariano said during an interview on WCVB-TV’s show “On The Record” on Sunday.
Asked who is “right” in the disagreement over whether teachers should be returning to school in person statewide, Mariano said it’s hard to decide that just one side is “right.”
“Everyone’s home situation is different. I’m not going to tell a teacher who may be taking care of their elderly mother that they have to get back into the system, the school system, and put their health at risk and take that risk back home to their family. I think we have to be a lot more flexible in how we approach this. I think teachers who want to get the vaccine, who feel the vaccine provides them a degree of safety, should get the vaccine, but we do have to get the kids back to school because they’re the ones being the most adversely affected.”
Mariano, who is a former teacher and Quincy School Committee member, reiterated to WBZ’s Jon Keller on Sunday that teachers should be moved to the “head of the line.”
Leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that vaccinating teachers is important, but not a prerequisite for schools to reopen for in-person learning. The agency released new guidelines on Friday to help school districts determine when and how to bring students back safely.
According to a tracker compiled by CNN, 26 states and the District of Columbia have already made teachers eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines.
On Tuesday, Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell also called for teachers to be prioritized for vaccines.
Campbell, who is running for mayor, wants the city to host a “teacher vaccination week” that would include a series of mass vaccination events for getting educators vaccinated and ready to return to school buildings. By the end of the academic year, she said, she wants every family in Boston to have the choice to send their child back to school in person.
“Many Boston families are desperate for their children to return to in-person learning,” Campbell wrote in a statement, “and I believe it’s critical that all families have the opportunity to do so - safely - before the end of this school year.”