The decision comes following a directive from the Biden administration to get teachers and childcare workers at least one dose of vaccine before the end of the month
CLARK COUNTY — If you work in a K-12 school, or in childcare, you now qualify for a COVID-19 vaccination, effective immediately.
The news broke Tuesday afternoon, following a directive issued by President Joe Biden that states should push to have all K-12 educators and childcare workers receive at least a first dose of vaccine before the end of the month.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state was adding all preK-12 educators and healthcare workers to the Phase 1B-1 vaccine eligibility list.
“The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will have more specific information soon on how those workers can access vaccines,” said Inslee in a statement. “Phase Finder may take time to reflect these changes, but educators and licensed child care workers can schedule with providers right away.”
In his own statement, State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal said districts around the state are ready and willing to start vaccinating educators.
“We continue to work with Kaiser Permanente and we are pleased our ‘Get Ready’ plan will be ready to move forward,” write Reykdal. “Local partnerships in other areas of the state have already been established. Between Kaiser Permanente, local partnerships, and the Biden Administration’s push for vaccines through the Federal Pharmacy Program, school employees in every region of the state will have access to at least one dose of the vaccine this month.”
Educational Services District 112, which represents schools in six counties, including Clark, issued a joint statement following the announcement.
“This is excellent news for students and those working in education across the nation. School district leaders from throughout Southwest Washington have been actively collaborating with one another and coordinating with health organizations to develop plans with the ultimate goal of getting educators vaccinated as quickly as possible when eligible,” the statement read. “The Washington State Department of Health is expected to release additional guidance in the coming days and schools will adapt their planning efforts to implement this guidance.”
During a press conference on Monday, Clark County Public Health Officer and Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said they have been working closely with school districts to make sure they’re ready.
“There’s a lot of planning going on with the schools and the school districts around setting up sites,” Melnick said, “and I’m really looking forward to when we get to that stage where we can start doing that.”
Melnick noted that there are around 80 school nurses in the county who are ready and able to administer vaccinations. Schools have also offered gymnasiums or property for community vaccination clinics.
Evergreen Public Schools spokesperson Gail Spolar said Superintendent Mike Merlino had sent out a survey to educators Tuesday afternoon, seeking to learn how many wanted or needed a vaccination. Some educators have already received vaccines if they qualified in other categories.
In it’s own statement, DOH said they had anticipated moving to the first tier of K-12 educators “in a matter of weeks.”
“This announcement represents a faster timeline than originally planned,” DOH wrote, “and the department is engaging partners on a robust plan to support this directive.”
That will include getting some clarification from the Biden administration on whether vaccine supplies will also be increasing to meet the added demand represented by the expansion of eligibility.
“Vaccine supply will likely primarily be delivered through the federal pharmacy program, and the directive indicates all vaccine providers should prioritize these workers,” DOH said.
The department warned that there is likely to be a mix of excitement and confusion following the announcement, and urged patience as the state works through the process of clarifying how educators and childcare workers can quickly and efficiently get queued up for a vaccine if they so desire.
“The good news is that schools will be able to open and we are pleased that teachers will be back in the classroom very soon,” added Inslee. “This should give educators more confidence to return to in-person learning and that it can be done with the safety protocols that are being used by 1,400 other schools in our state right now.”