GLOUCESTER (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that the state's educators, child care workers and school staff can sign up for COVID vaccine appointments starting Thursday, March 11.
"Soon as I get those two doses, I'm back," said Brockton High School chemistry teacher Jen Morgan. "I want to come back so if we can get those vaccines in our arms, the faster the better."
With the announcement, about 400,000 more people become eligible for the vaccine. Also currently eligible are people over 65 and older, as well as people with at least two medical conditions.
"It will probably take a while for other folks who are part of this eligibility group to work their way through the system," Baker said.
Teachers were listed as eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts at CVS locations following an update to their website overnight. This came after President Biden issued a directive Tuesday for retail pharmacies across the country to give teachers access to the vaccine. The president wants states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and school staff by the end of March.
Baker said it remains critical for federal supply of vaccines to increase in order to get through the number of people now eligible.
"If we are patient, everyone who wants one will eventually get one," said Baker.
State legislators and the Massachusetts Teachers Association have been pressuring Baker to set aside some coronavirus vaccines for teachers and school staff. The governor wants to get all students back in classrooms by April, starting with elementary school kids.
"Finally it's happening! I mean we've been asking for this for weeks," said Wakefield English teacher Will Karvouniaris. "The teachers are going to get vaccinated maybe, if the supply is there, but the students still haven't been vaccinated."
Mass General Hospital Emergency Preparedness Director Dr. Paul Biddinger says transmission rates in schools are already low. "In person education can be done safely. It doesn't require children to be vaccinated," Biddinger said. "It requires following good protection control practices about ventilation, masking, distances."
CIC Health, which runs the Fenway, Gillette and Reggie Lewis Center sites, said state officials will designate specific days of the week for educators to get their shots at the seven venues.
Baker said the state is not going to provide vaccines directly to school districts or otherwise fast-track the supply for educators.
"We do want to see educators get vaccinated. We're going to move them up ahead of all the other groups that are part of the next phase of Phase 2," said Baker. "I don't see how we can choose to take vaccines away from people who are over the age of 65 and significantly a risk of hospitalization and death from COVID, or people who have two comorbidities - many of which have already been proven time and time again to be terribly dangerous when it comes to COVID - and not include them going forward in the process."
Massachusetts expects to receive about 150,000 first doses per week until the end of March, when supply is expected to increase.
To date, Massachusetts has administered about 1.2 million first doses and 1.8 million total vaccines.
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