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President Biden Directs States To Prioritize Vaccinating Teachers, School Staff By End Of March

BOSTON (CBS) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and school staff by the end of March. In Massachusetts, teachers are not currently eligible to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine appointment.

Biden made the announcement about teachers while also declaring that the United States will have enough vaccine supply for all Americans by the end of May.

"My challenge to all states. . . we want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March," Biden said.

The federal pharmacy program will also be used to prioritize vaccines for Pre-K to 12 staff. Teachers and school employees will be able to sign up for an appointment at a pharmacy near them, Biden said.

There was no immediate response to Biden's announcement from Gov. Charlie Baker.

"The announcement just represents the light at the end of a very dark tunnel," said Framingham teacher Eugenia Doncov, who began in-person instruction last week. "I am just so relieved and so happy to know that there's a date and a timeline for educators."

Merrie Najimy, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, says the time to act is now. "Everybody is on board except Governor Baker to get Massachusetts educators vaccinated now," Najimy said.

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.

Najimy says they have a plan, they just need the green light. "We have the perfect plan that's efficient, effective and it gets Massachusetts school employees vaccinated in large numbers very quickly," Najimy said.

The union plan involves a partnership with first responders who would transport and administer the vaccine locally.

Also on Tuesday, Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka said Baker should set aside some coronavirus vaccines for teachers and school staff. Her stance comes as the Baker administration aims to take remote learning "off the table" for schools and get all elementary school students back in classrooms by April.

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine began arriving in Massachusetts on Tuesday. Spilka said in a statement to the State House News Service that "we need a vaccine program for teachers and staff that is aggressive, and we need it this month."

"As more vaccine doses become available to the state, I am calling on the Governor to designate a percentage of those doses to be administered to teachers and staff in their communities," Spilka said. "If the Governor wants to mandate opening elementary schools across the Commonwealth to in-person learning by April 1st, the Administration must have an equitable plan that gives communities the necessary support and resources to do that."

Several state lawmakers recently urged Baker to give teachers and school staff the Johnson & Johnson vaccine first. Baker said Monday the distribution plan for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the immediate future remains "a little bit up in the air."

Baker has not yet responded to Spilka or the lawmakers' proposals.

In Pennsylvania, a state representative said there are plans to give teachers priority access to the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, as long as they guarantee they will return to the classroom.

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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