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COVID-19

News >  WA Government

Teachers, child care workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Washington following presidential directive

UPDATED: Tue., March 2, 2021

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that educators, school staff and licensed child care workers would be added to the current tier of residents eligible to be vaccinated in Washington.

“This directive will be carried out through existing providers and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which operates through national pharmacies and independent pharmacy chains,” Inslee said in a news release.

Inslee’s news about teacher vaccination followed an earlier announcement in the day from President Joe Biden, who said the country will have enough vaccines by the end of May to vaccinate every adult in the United States. Biden also directed states to prioritize teachers and child care workers, with the expectation that they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in March.

Currently, health care and frontline workers, as well as all residents 65 and older or 50 and older in multigenerational households, are eligible to get the vaccine in Washington. There has not been enough vaccine supply to offer doses to every person eligible for the vaccine in Washington.

Unlike many states, such as Idaho, which has made vaccines available to all teachers, Inslee has argued that it is more important to get older people vaccinated before opening availability to teachers. But significant pressure has been building on him to change his stance from teacher unions and politicians from both parties.

At an event at Stevens Elementary in Spokane last week, Inslee defended his decision to prioritize residents aged 65 and up.

“We have to take care of those 65 and up, because they represent 90% of fatalities,” he said.

Pre-K and K-12 school staff and child care workers were next to be prioritized in a tiered ranking of essential workers in the state’s vaccination plan, but the federal announcement means a faster timeline than the Department of Health planned.

The department is trying to get clarity from the Biden administration about vaccine supply and equitable access to support these plans, according to a Department of Health news release.

“Vaccine supply will likely primarily be delivered through the federal pharmacy program, and the directive indicates all vaccine providers should prioritize these workers,” the department statement said. “DOH acknowledges these announcements may cause a mix of excitement, concern and confusion for different communities.”

The department plans to share more updates on the expanded vaccine access in the coming days, and the state’s Phase Finder tool will not be updated immediately to reflect these changes.

Inslee said teachers and licensed child care workers can schedule vaccine appointments “with providers right away.”

“We will continue the current state plans and goals to focus on those most at risk, including older adults and those facing the greatest equity gaps,” Inslee said in a news release. “To that end, I will soon be announcing when our state vaccine prioritization will be moving to include critical workers in certain congregate settings including those who work in grocery stores, farmworkers, food processors, bus drivers, corrections workers and others.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal expects the announcement to speed up the timeline for school districts statewide to return to or expand in-person learning. Currently, about 36% of Washington students are learning in person.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has partnered with Kaiser Permanente already to expedite vaccines for teachers statewide, and with this program, the federal pharmacy program and local partnerships, teachers and health care workers statewide should be able to access at least one dose of a vaccine this month, according to OSPI.

“The data and research show that if schools follow all health and safety requirements, they can safely reopen without widespread vaccination within the school community,” Reykdal said in a news release. “However, like President Biden, we know vaccination of school employees is an additional layer of protection that will provide comfort to staff, students and families.”

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 111 new cases on Tuesday and two additional deaths.

There are 42 patients hospitalized in Spokane hospitals with the virus.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 45 cases on Tuesday and one additional death. There have been 264 deaths due to COVID-19 confirmed in Panhandle residents.

There are 23 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19.


Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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