President Biden announced today a directive to all states to get every pre-K educator, K-12 teacher, and childcare worker at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine in the month of March.
“Over 30 states have already taken steps to prioritize educators for vaccination. And today, I’m using the full authority of the federal government. I’m directing every state to do the same. My challenge to all states, territories, and the District of Columbia is this: We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March.”
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recognizes the importance of vaccinating educators, school staff, and childcare workers. School staff and childcare workers were already in the next group to become eligible for vaccines, and our state was moving to vaccinate them in a matter of weeks. This announcement represents a faster timeline than originally planned, and the department is engaging partners on a robust plan to support this directive.
DOH is working quickly to get clarity from the Biden Administration to ensure roll-out in our state will result in ample vaccine supply through various providers and equitable access for education and childcare workers. Vaccine supply will likely primarily be delivered through the federal pharmacy program, and the directive indicates all vaccine providers should prioritize these workers.
DOH remains committed to continued vaccination for older adults and others who are currently prioritized for vaccinations under the current plan. DOH also remains committed to vaccinating all Washingtonians as quickly and equitably as possible.
DOH acknowledges these announcements may cause a mix of excitement, concern, and confusion for different communities. The department will share more information in the days ahead as DOH learns more from our federal partners.
Gov. Jay Inslee also issued a statement today following President Joe Biden’s directive..
“Like President Biden, I am grateful for the hard work and sacrifice of educators every day, and especially during this pandemic. The president has directed us to add preK-12 educators, school staff and licensed childcare workers to our current vaccine prioritization. This directive will be carried out through existing providers and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which operates through national pharmacies and independent pharmacy chains.
“Therefore, we are adding educators and licensed childcare workers to Washington’s Phase 1B-1 immediately. The Washington State Department of Health will have more specific information soon on how those workers can access vaccines. Phase Finder may take time to reflect these changes, but educators and licensed childcare workers can schedule with providers right away.
“The good news is that schools will be able to open and we are pleased that teachers will be back in the classroom. This should give educators more confidence to return to in-person learning and that it can be done with the safety protocols that are being used by 1,400 other schools in our state right now.
“We will continue the current state plans and goals to focus on those most at risk, including older adults and those facing the greatest equity gaps.
“To that end, I will soon be announcing when our state vaccine prioritization will be moving to include critical workers in certain congregate settings including those who work in grocery stores, farmworkers, food processors, bus drivers, corrections workers and others.
“We will continue our progress in getting every Washingtonian vaccinated. I am grateful for the partnership of the federal government and their efforts to help move educators up in the prioritization.”