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'A Joyful Day For Educators,' Mass. Teachers Union President Says Of COVID Vaccine Eligibility

WATERTOWN (CBS) – The president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association called it a "joyful day" and a "victory" that the state's educators will be able to sign up for COVID vaccines starting March 11.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced that teachers and school staff will be eligible following a directive from President Joe Biden to prioritize vaccinating educators by the end of the month.

"Today is a joyful day for educators across the state," said MTA president Marie Najimy. "Vaccinating educators now adds an extra layer of protection. This took a village. President Biden made the right decision to make this happen. There's work to do and pay attention to details. We want to make sure this vaccination program has an equitable, efficient and effective rollout."

Baker announced last week that the state aims to get all students back in classrooms by April, beginning with elementary school children.

Najimy said 80% of Massaachusetts schools are back learning in person, following CDC guidelines.

"When educators feel safe it has a direct impact on students feeling safe," Najimy said. "What we do know is there is a commitment from federal government to get educators vaccinated. It's important to work towards April. I believe we can begin the rollout right now. The sooner the governor works with us, the sooner we can reach that goal. Our job is to continue to advocate we get this program started."

After meeting with several thousand MTA members, Najimy said a "high percentage rate" said they would feel comfortable going back into classrooms once vaccinated.

Baker said the state is not going to provide vaccines directly to school districts or otherwise fast-track the supply for educators. He added it remains critical for the federal government to increase the supply of vaccines to states.

The state plans to designate specific days of the week for educators to get their shots at the seven mass vaccination sites.

"This announcement is a victory for our students. In the end it will get us to our goal to in-person learning," Najimy said. "I want to really reinforcement the euphoria educators are feeling across the state."

Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang released this statement, saying in part it is "frustrating" the state is only giving the priority following a federal mandate.

While it is frustrating that the State is only giving this priority after a federal mandate, knowing that March 11 is on the horizon and that the federal government has made vaccines available through the pharmacy program is welcome news.  We will continue to work with the school district and city to help our educators, especially the ones already in the classroom, make their appointments immediately. We will also continue to advocate for a more effective overall vaccination rollout from the state for the benefit and safety of all frontline workers such as transit workers who are still being left behind in the Governor's plans, while also advocating for adequate resources to ensure mitigation efforts are fully implemented and sustained.

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