Push to move teachers up COVID-19 vaccine priority list

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Education Association is asking the state to move teachers up the priority list to receive the COVID vaccine.

“Educators should be prioritized as soon as possible,” said Larry Delaney, president of the Washington Education Association. The teachers union also asks the state to vaccinate all teachers at once, not to separate them into groups by age.

Last week the Department of Health announced teachers would be included in phase 1B.  Teachers fall in the second part,  B2, under high risk crtical workers and were set to be vaccinated in February,  but only if they’re 50 and older.

Teachers under 50 are in the fourth part,  B4, scheduled for April.

“We’re advocating that all educators be moved up in the priority list but also if the vaccine is not available and districts are making plans to return to in person teaching and learning that they slow those plans down,” said Delaney.

In the state senate, education committee leaders are pushing for all school employees to get vaccinated in February, not just those 50 and older.

Tani Lindquist is a PE teacher at Lakeridge Elementary on Mercer Island. The 51-year-old is teaching remotely and is eager to get vaccinated.

“That level of stress and unknown fear, it eats at you. It really wears you down,” said Lindquist, “I really think every educator should receive their vaccination before we come back in person.”

The Mercer Island School District returned kindergarteners to in-person learning last week , first graders are set to start next week.

“Since there is a much stronger push to reopen faster and to bring more kids in, I think there needs to be that parallel commitment to ensure that people being brought in can be kept safe and the best way to do that is to give everyone a vaccine,” said Lindquist.