In one week teachers and other school staff will be lining up at vaccination clinics across Pennsylvania.
"These clinics are closed clinics and not open to the public," said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) director Randy Padfield. "Only individuals who meet the prioritization criteria, are pre-registered and have appointments are able to be accommodated because of the limited quantities of vaccine that are available on this first round."
The state has provided guidance for how to prioritize school staff for Johnson & Johnson vaccinations. That guidance highlights the following groups as having initial priority:
"School staff that have regular and sustained in-person contact with students during the regular school day, including teachers and staff providing pre-k and elementary instruction, special education, English learners and associated support because younger children are more susceptible to learning loss and their families are more likely to have childcare challenges."
The clinics are scheduled March 10-13 and are being coordinated by PEMA with help from the PA National Guard and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare.
Moments after the Governor and the bipartisan task force announced that school staff would be prioritized for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, districts across the state sent a survey to their employees asking whom among them had already received the COVID-19 vaccine and whom among them would like to get one.
The surveys are due back Monday and from there Pennsylvania leaders will determine how many doses are allocated to each region based on availability.
Leaders said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Education and Health are partnering with the 28 Intermediate Units (IUs) to establish vaccine sites. Assisting in the effort to administer the vaccine are the Pennsylvania National Guard and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI).
Teachers who are chosen to get a vaccine in the first round of distribution will be directly contacted and given an appointment. Meantime, the state's retail pharmacy partners Walmart, Topco, and Rite Aid will be directly contacting eligible childcare workers to schedule an appointment.
"School workers will receive instructions from their employer and child care workers will be contacted by the retail pharmacy providers," said Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam.
The vaccination is voluntary.
"Planning such a long operation with just a short time to execute takes a tremendous amount of teamwork and focus," said Padfield.
The state also updated recommendations to school leaders for offering instruction based on the level of community transmission in a county, telling states 'full in-person learning is recommended in low level counties, hybrid/blended learning is recommended in moderate counties and hybrid/blended learning is recommended for elementary grades and full remote learning for middle and high schools in substantial counties.'
Beam was asked what her message was to people in Phase 1a who are still waiting on the shot who may be wondering why the state is giving educators, who are in Phase 1b, priority of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
She said, "what we created is a pathway for our teachers and our educators to get vaccinated without putting additional stress on our hospitals or our other providers who are working hard to address that 1a population."