CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – State leaders are weighing the options to find the most efficient way to vaccinate teachers; which could be as early as mid-March.
Teachers all over the state have been fighting to get moved up to Phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for months. Colby Martin, a South Carolina teacher, says she feels like she isn’t being prioritized.
“What I do know, is that the people you need the most, you need to make them feel like they are number 1 on your priority list. I just think educators in South Carolina do not feel that way,” says Martin.
Since the beginning of 2021, state lawmakers have also been pushing to move teachers up in line. Right now, a bill to add education staff to Phase 1A is sitting in the House with no action made after Tuesday’s committee meeting.
SC Department of Health and Environmental Control leaders say adding teachers to the current phase is easier said than done. In fact, they believe the timeline would likely pan out the same if they wait until Phase 1B rolls out in the next few weeks.
“So essentially, these bills don’t do anything. And rather than go through all of this and pretend like we have vaccines that we don’t, we’d be better off if we said ‘if you are a school you must open right now,'” says House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford.
Rutherford described the state’s process in trying to figure out who should get the vaccine first as the “Hunger Games,” a popular dystopian novel about fighting to the death for survival.
Dr. Edward Simmer, Director of SCDHEC, says he would recommend that all schools can open for in-person learning despite the vaccine not being administrated yet.
“Now again, we want to give the vaccine to teachers. But do we need to do that in front of the 65+ group? No I don’t think so,” says Simmer.
According to DHEC, Phase 1B includes: “Sectors included by ACIP: firefighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, USPS workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the educational sector—teachers, support staff, and daycare workers.”
State Superintendent Molly Spearman says her biggest concern with teachers staying in Phase 1B is not being prioritized within that group and will likely have to wait even longer to get vaccines out.
“We’ll be ready to go, knocking on your door saying ‘come do us first.’ But currently all those groups, if you look at the list, we’re last on the list,” says Spearman.
As the end of this school year approaches, teachers say they hope to make the most out of the rest of their time; preferably in the classroom.
“Let me say this too: nobody is arguing that kids shouldn’t be back in school 5 days a week — but we need a solution to keep the buildings open,” says Martin.
The legislation to move teachers into Phase 1A is still under consideration. We will provide updates if any changes are made.