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Teachers in Florida and Texas can get COVID-19 shots despite governors' edicts

Teachers demand COVID safety upgrades to classrooms
Teachers demand COVID safety upgrades to clas... 01:54

School and childcare workers now have an opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine even if they live in one of the roughly dozen states around the U.S. where they have not yet been declared eligible. 

After a shift in federal policy this week, pharmacy chain CVS Health said it would adhere to Biden administration guidelines that state day care workers, preschool teachers and educators in elementary, middle and high schools may be vaccinated with no age limit.

"We are following the directive of the CDC for the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to vaccinate pre-K through 12 educators, staff and childcare workers in all 17 states where we currently are a Federal pharmacy partner," a CVS spokesman told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. 

CVS is among the 21 national drugstore chains and networks participating in a federal effort to accelerate vaccine distribution to combat a pandemic that has infected nearly 29 million Americans and killed almost 520,000 people.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged states to prioritize vaccinating teachers, noting that at least 30 states already did so. He also said he was using the authority of the federal government to ensure that all states and the District of Columbia follow suit. 

"As yet another move to help accelerate the safe reopening of schools, let's treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is. And that means getting essential workers who provide that service — educators, school staff, child care workers — get them vaccinated immediately. They're essential workers," Mr. Biden said.

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The presidential directive opened up vaccinations to those workers in states including Florida and Texas. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had limited the shots to educators age 50 and older, and had not yet opened up vaccinations to daycare and preschool teachers. But on Thursday he reversed course, saying that while he believed age was an appropriate way to dispense vaccines, the federal government could operate its program as it saw fit.

"The age-based approach we think is the most effective to reduce mortality, you know at the same time, the federal government's the one sending us the vaccine; if they want it to be for all ages, then they have the ability to go and do that," DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday, according to local media accounts.

The Lone Star state had a similar reaction. The Texas Department of Health Services cited the federal directive on Wednesday in announcing that vaccine eligibility was expanding to include those working in education or childcare, including school staff and bus drivers. 

Before the switch, Texas had prioritized vaccinations for frontline medical workers, nursing home residents, those 65 and older, and those 16 and older with at least one chronic medical condition that put them at a higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.

The president's directive was welcomed by both major unions representing teachers.

"With the help of this federal commitment to prioritize teacher vaccinations, we're confident that within the next weeks and months, we'll be able to be back in classrooms, enabling the academic, social and emotional learning that we know happens best in person," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement

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