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Give Teachers The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine First, Lawmakers Urge Baker

MARSHFIELD (CBS) -- Several Massachusetts lawmakers have signed on to a letter urging Gov. Charlie Baker to prioritize incoming shipments of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine for teachers and school staff. Baker said Monday that the first shipment of the single-dose vaccines is expected to arrive next week.

The letter authored by Rep. Patrick Joseph Kearney, who represents Marshfield and Scituate, references the new push from the Baker administration to take remote learning "off the table" and have all elementary school students learning in person five days a week by April.

"We are requesting that approximately 72,000 public school teachers, as well as school administrators and staff be given the recently approved one shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine so that when they are forced back into the classroom by DESE it is safe," the letter states.

At the beginning of this pandemic I asked DESE to give consistent statewide guidance on in-person and remote learning...

Posted by Patrick Kearney for State Representative on Monday, March 1, 2021

Teachers and other essential workers are next up on the Massachusetts coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. It's not yet known when the state will open up eligibility to that group.

"I, along with the Marshfield and Scituate Superintendents, and 20 of my colleagues, are asking the Governor to prioritize our teachers and school employees for the one shot J&J vaccine if they are going to force them back to full time in-person learning," Kearney posted to Facebook.

Baker has called Johnson & Johnson a "game-changer" in recent months because it is one dose, and does not need require a deep freeze. He stressed that the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all "completely effective against hospitalization and death," and said there is no reason to have concern that one is better than the other.

Baker says the new vaccines will likely be added to the state's current stock, but state lawmakers have another proposal.

"There is not a student or parent or educator in the Commonwealth that doesn't want to get back into the schools but you have to be able to do it safely, and this is the way that we can do that," said State Sen. Paul Feeney.

"If they're going to be forced to go back to school by April 1, we have to make sure that our children and everybody else that's working inside the building is ready to go," said State Sen. Adam Gomez.

The governor has not responded to the proposal.

So far, in Massachusetts, with only Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines available, 1.2 million people have gotten their first dose and more than 500,000 are fully vaccinated.

Nationally, Johnson & Johnson is shipping out approximately four million doses. The company said it will have 16 million more by the end of the month and 100 million by summer.

Visit Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find out when you're eligible and to book an appointment, or call the hotline at 211.

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