CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina teachers are calling on Governor Henry McMaster to add school staff to Phase 1-A of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.
SC for Ed, an education advocacy group, has sent nearly 100 letters to the governor with this same message: “Make public education a priority. Vaccinate the teachers.”
Dottie Adams, a teacher and representative of the group, says they are working to change the narrative that teachers don’t want to be back in the classroom.
“We would love to be back in school. But, no one is doing anything in the community to make that happen safely,” says Adams.
According to Governor McMaster, as much as he would like to vaccinate teachers right now, there is still a long list of vulnerable people who need to come first. His goal right now is working towards adding people 65 and older to the list.
“As soon as we can get those 70 year olds as well as the rest of the 1-A, I’d like to move that down as quickly as possible. Then, as soon as possible to 65 and up, then get to 1-B which includes teachers and many other people,” says McMaster.
Officials from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control were asked the question: “Why were teachers not included in phase 1-A?”
Dr. Michael Kacka, DHEC physician and Chief Medical Officer for COVID-19, says this decision was made as a collaborative group of the state’s top medical leaders. He says the goal of Phase 1-A is to simply prevent people from dying.
“Teachers are obviously very important frontline workers who may be at risk of exposure and we do take that under consideration. The problem is we still have several weeks of phase 1-A to go because of the limited supply of vaccines,” says Kacka.
Adams says regardless of the limited supply, there has to be a way to squeeze more out of these vaccine doses to start distributing to school staff, but Governor McMaster has chosen not to do so.
“There’s 37,000 vaccines that we’re supposed to use for long-term care patients that didn’t need to be used. He has the opportunity to say ‘hey, we’re going to prioritize school staff and we’re going to make sure some of them start to get the vaccine.’ He did not choose to do that,” says Adams.
SC for Ed has written a letter to the SC School Board Association and the SC Association for School Administrators urging them to advocate for school staff and put pressure on state lawmakers.
Part of the letter reads, “Returning to in-person learning is critical for many of our students and staff, who miss the joy daily in-person learning brings, but this is why a plan for vaccination is so important and why prioritizing the existing phases in the vaccination criteria is the only consistent way forward for leader calling for face-to-face instruction.”
They are also calling on fellow teachers to participate in multiple events this week to help get their message across to Governor McMaster. One of the events includes sending a band-aid to the Governor’s office.
For more information on SC for Ed, click here.