Teachers won’t be moved up in vaccination distribution plan to accommodate school reopenings

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Public schools in New Mexico will be allowed to offer in-person learning starting Feb. 8.

However, teachers will not be moved up in the vaccination distribution plan to accommodate reopenings.

New Mexico Department of Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said teachers remain in a subgroup of Phase 1B, which is not eligible to receive the vaccine yet.

However, she reminded people during a virtual update Wednesday that some teachers fall into an earlier phase of 1B that allows them to get the vaccine right now.

"The teachers who are going to be going back to the classroom, they’re actually, if they’re 75 or older they can be vaccinated, and plenty of teachers have a chronic condition and meet eligibility within those first two subgroups of 1B," she said.

So why was the decision made to allow in-person learning to begin before all teachers could be vaccinated?

Dr. David Scrase, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department, answered that question for a legislative education committee.

He said it comes down data showing that schools are not as big of a superspreader risk as previously thought.

"We looked at all the cases in the schools," he said. "At the peak, there was a total of 250 students and teachers in a week, that was November 2nd through 9th, which works out to about 20 cases a day, and that was back when we had 1,200 to 2,000 cases a day so a very small number."

Teachers fall into the phase 1B subgroup with other essential workers.

They will be the next group eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, no timeline has been given for when the group is expected to begin being vaccinated. The state says it will depend on supply and demand.

Officials say approximately 900,000 New Mexicans are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine right now. However, the state has only received about 316,000 vaccines. Nearly 300,000 of those vaccines have already been administered.

New Mexico is one of the top states in the country when it comes to administering vaccines.

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