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How will school districts determine what teachers & staff members get the COVID-19 vaccination first?

With not enough vaccine to go around, school staff will be prioritized for the Johnson & Johnson shot

Moments after the Governor's announcement that schools would be first in line for Pennsylvania's allocation of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, districts got to work sending out a survey to their staff to ask whom among them would want a dose. But without enough vaccine to go around, decisions lie ahead on who will get in line first. 

The state has provided guidance for how to prioritize school staff for 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."

Pennsylvania leaders are pushing to get the vaccine to educators by planning clinics between March 10 and 13th. 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). 

The vaccination is voluntary, but multiple districts and the Pennsylvania State Education Association hopes everyone who can get a shot will decide to do so. 

"Making the vaccine available to school staff is a key step in getting more students back to school, more parents back to work without a worry, and getting our economy back to where it needs to be. So, this is the right move," said PSEA President Rich Askey, who added the state has a solid plan for rolling out the vaccine to teachers.

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.'

Schools have been told to continue to practice mitigation efforts regardless of the county's transmission level.