Updated: December 06, 2020 10:23 PM
Created: December 06, 2020 09:52 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As vaccine companies finalize their distribution plans for the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, some are wondering if educators will be given priority. According to health experts, vaccinations are the best and safest tool available to allow schools to safely reopen in-person.
“We know that we want to get students back into schools in-person, full capacity, as soon as possible,” said Mary Parr-Sanchez, president of the National Education Association–New Mexico
Parr-Sanchez said health care workers and the elderly should be vaccinated first, but teachers should also be somewhere on the priority list.
"Educators probably would be below that, with food distribution folks,” she said.
"And then I would leave it to the wisdom of others to determine what that pecking order is going to be, but I know opening schools is extremely important to communities, so it would have be a high priority,” she added.
It’s up to the State Health Department to decide the order of distribution.
KOB 4 reached out to the state and a spokesperson said, "Once we get more information from the federal government on additional shipments of the vaccine beyond December, we will be in a better position to make allocation decisions. Our planning continues and as soon as we have more information on shipments and allocations, we will be sure to provide the public with the latest information."
NMDOH said the first round if Pfizer vaccines won’t be enough to cover all high-priority health care workers.
According to the state’s plan from October, after high-priority health care workers are vaccinated, the following people will be given priority: first responders, nursing home residents and staff, people in homeless shelters and jails, health care workers in pharmacies, then other New Mexicans who are most at risk of falling extremely ill from COVID.
A spokesperson with Albuquerque Public Schools said they’re waiting to hear details on the vaccine rollout plans. A Rio Rancho Public Schools spokesperson said they support teachers having an early opportunity to get the vaccine.
When teachers start to receive the vaccine, Parr-Sanchez said districts should be allowed to decide for themselves when to return to the classroom.
"I think it needs to be a conversation with the educators, with the parents and with the students, and then to follow the science as best as possible,” she said.
"I just know that in the year 2021, which is right around the corner, I'm just full of hope that we're going to get our kids back in school,” she added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's chief infectious disease expert, said he thinks it’ll be safe for schools to go back in-person with just teachers being vaccinated, and would not have to wait for students to also get the vaccine.
According to the State’s Public Education Department, more than 1,000 teachers across the state have tested positive, and nearly 500 students have as well.
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