Teachers over 50 to get vaccine months before other teachers

VIDEO: Teachers 50, older will be eligible to get vaccine in next phase

As school districts work to get students and teachers safely back in class, the state announced when teachers qualify to be vaccinated depends on their age.

Teachers who are 50 years old and older are in group B2. That group is scheduled to be vaccinated in February. Teachers under 50 years old are in group B4 and are slated for vaccination in April.

The Washington Department of Health stated it was focused on vaccinating the most at-risk, and there are just too many people who fall in this phase to include workers of all ages.

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The other high-risk critical workers are also divided by age and include those who work in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, child care, corrections, public transit, fire, law enforcement, as well as K-12 teachers and staff.

Many school districts, including Bellevue, Seattle and Lake Washington, are hoping to return the youngest learners to class in February and March.

The Lake Washington School District announced its plans in a virtual meeting last night, hoping to return some primary students in February. Superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen included the new vaccination information from the Washington Department of Health (https://www.lwsd.org/pathway-forward) in his presentation. “It is news to us our staff would be moved up this far in the process. I’m pleased for our staff that they will be able to have that availability,” said Holmen.

KIRO 7 reached out to the teachers union for a reaction. Howard Mawhinney, the president of the Lake Washington Education Association, wrote, “Nobody wants to be back in classrooms more than educators, but only when it’s safe. The Lake Washington School District needs to have a plan in place for student and staff safety that takes every measure possible to mitigate COVID spread. Only a plan that meets or exceeds state requirements will build the trust and confidence needed of all students, families, and staff to make a return to in-person instruction a success. Particularly in the absence of vaccinations.”

KIRO-7 asked the Washington Education Association about the state making the vaccine available to teachers. Larry Delaney, president of WEA, wrote, “WEA educators are on the front-lines of teaching during the pandemic, whether remotely or in-person, and we are relieved that school employees in higher-risk settings will receive priority access to the COVID vaccine. The COVID vaccine is one essential tool in preventing infections and is a critical part of a larger strategy to keep students and educators safe. The strategy must also include cohorting, social distancing, PPE, ventilation, and other requirements set by our state’s Department of Labor and Industries. Nobody wants to be safely in classrooms more than educators, but we need to make sure it’s safe for them, their students and families.”