Vaccine Eligibility Expanded to School Staff, Child Care Workers

Teachers and child care workers are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday night directed states to expand eligibility.

The federal directive defined the people eligible as “those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services said Wednesday the new directive doesn’t change the other groups prioritized for vaccination in Texas. 

The change in federal policy came after President Joe Biden called on states to prioritize teachers and child care workers for the shots and said the federal government will soon begin using its pharmacy program to prioritize educators and allow them to sign up for appointments.

“My challenge to all states, territories and the District of Columbia is this: We want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” Biden said Tuesday, as reported by the Washington Post.

Prioritizing teacher and school employees for vaccination are part of Biden’s push to reopen schools during his first 100 days in office.

CVS also opened up eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to educators, school staff, and child care workers.

The company said that the move “aligned with updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines” and would happen in 17 states — including Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana — where CVS offers COVID-19 vaccines, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Vaccines in a retail setting are offered on an appointment-only basis via CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and those without online access can contact customer service: 1-800-746-7287.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins took to social media after the announcement about educator eligibility for the vaccine, sharing the news and adding that the first teachers “will be vaccinated next week.”

President Joe Biden wants all teachers to get a vaccine shot by the end of March. The White House will use the pharmacy…

Posted by Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

But, Jenkins told the Dallas Morning News that vaccines sent to the federal and county-approved hubs will be hard to get as there’s a backlog of about 750,000 people on Dallas County’s waiting list. 

“Unfortunately, the state has diverted roughly 59,000 shots that would go to communities outside of those 17 Dallas County zip codes over the last two weeks, and until this changes, there are just not enough shots to get coverage for all on our list,” Jenkins added in a statement. “You should continue to register with Dallas County and also register anywhere you’re willing to drive.”

The policy change also came shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans to lift the statewide mask mandate and capacity restrictions without providing guidance for schools.  

The Texas Education Agency announced updated guidance Wednesday that said public school systems’ mask policies can continue unchanged and local school boards have the authority to determine their district’s mask policy.

The state is expected to release additional information about the next group eligible for vaccination later this month. 

In other news:

  • Dallas County reported 718 more COVID-19 cases — 317 confirmed cases and 401 probable — and an additional 26 deaths. The county also reported five more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. that’s believed to be more contagious, bringing the total number of cases of the variant identified in Dallas County to nine. Of the five newly-reported cases of the variant, two are Dallas residents, two are Garland residents, and one is a Sachse resident.
  • Dallas will begin distributing its allotment of vaccine at The Potter’s House today.
  • Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) CEO Bill Magness has 60 days left on the job after the grid operator’s board of directors met Wednesday night gave him a 60 days’ termination notice. The board is expected to begin an immediate search for a new CEO.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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