Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday that Louisiana will begin granting priority access of the COVID-19 vaccine to early childhood center workers and pre-k through twelfth grade educators and support staff on Monday. Cade Brumley, Louisiana Department of Education superintendent, expressed his support of the decision saying the decision recognizes that educators are indeed essential workers.
“This signifies the value of our essential employees and will enable even more Louisiana centers and schools to be fully open to serve students, families and communities,” Brumley said.
The LDOE has been working with districts statewide over the last month to help them prepare for the potential of Thursday’s announcement. Plans include helping districts identify the number of vaccines needed and medical community partners to help administer the vaccine.
The department’s request to be included in the current eligibility tier was ear-marked for approximately 167,000 individuals including teachers and leaders as well as support staff such as cafeteria workers, secretaries and bus drivers. “Our belief is that this allows access for those individuals.”
Brumley said that anecdotal data obtained by the department indicates that approximately half of teachers, staff and faculty are interested in vaccination. He added that there are no plans to mandate the vaccination for staff.
“That’s a very personal decision for everyone across the state. Our concern was making sure teachers had priority access and we feel that has been accomplished today…We don’t intended to take a position on whether or not an employee should or should not get the vaccine.”
The exact roll out of local vaccination for educators will be a “system by system” decision as local districts work with their medical community partners. “It’ll look a little different across the state based on local need. But everyone begins their period of eligibility Monday.”
Though more people will have access to the vaccine on Monday, Brumley emphasized that availability may not necessarily match eligibility. “As more supply become available, and we believe it will, we’ll be able to give our employees access to that.”
Currently, 67 percent of school districts have returned to face to face instruction. Brumley said that COVID-19 vaccination of teachers and staff will help drive that number back towards 100 percent.
“We believe the vaccine will be an additional tool to move their schools back to face to face instruction within their local community context.”