Duval school board leader asks Gov. DeSantis to give teachers vaccine priority

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County School Board Chair Elizabeth Andersen on Friday sent a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to make teachers a priority during the next phase of coronavirus vaccine distribution.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said teachers and school staff should not expect to be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine, saying people 65 and older come first. That goes against what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended. CDC said frontline essential workers such as firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers and teachers, along with those 75 and older should be vaccinated in the second phase.

During a press conference in Jacksonville on Monday, DeSantis said he is sticking with the policy for now. But DeSantis did express optimism that if the upcoming vaccine from Johnson & Johnson comes online soon, frontline workers could begin to get vaccinations by early March.

“But let’s say they have 25 million on day one. Now, Florida would get a decent chunk of that, and we would be able to get that out to school districts to police departments and to some of the places where I know a lot of folks are interested in getting it, so we want to do that,” DeSantis said. “It’s supply dependent, it’s approval dependent, but I’m actually optimistic, the more and more I hear about the J & J.”

Educators 65 and older and school employees in medically vulnerable populations can get the vaccine now, but the state’s largest association for teachers is calling for signatures for a petition to tell the governor to ensure all educators get priority.

Andersen publicly joined the push to vaccinate teachers a referenced three recent COVID-19 related deaths — a student and two educators — in the last two weeks.

MORE | Neptune Beach Elementary teacher’s assistant dies due to COVID-19 complications, board member says

MORE | Jacksonville 8-year-old dies from coronavirus-related syndrome, family says

MORE | Jacksonville elementary teacher who died ‘brought love, joy and kindness to her students’

“They have been working overtime to meet the needs of students both in-person and online while also managing their own fears and taking care of their own families,” Andersen wrote in the letter also addressed to Florida Education Commissioner of Education. “This has been a very challenging year for us all, but our educators are simply exhausted by the burdens that they carry. For these reasons we respectfully request that you include K-12 educators and school-related personnel as a priority in the next phase of vaccine distribution.”

Andersen said providing priority access to vaccines for educators and school-related personnel ensures that the staff is healthy and confident to finish off the remainder of the school year.

“Offering them some relief through the vaccine will not only have a positive impact on the safety and in-person education of our children, but it will also help bolster community confidence in the vaccine, enhance the effectiveness of our workforce, and demonstrate how much our state leaders value the essential role that they play,” Andersen wrote.

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said earlier this month that no more COVID-19 vaccination events are planned for school district employees at this time.

Greene said about 200 of the 550 district employees who are either 65 or older or medical personnel were able to get vaccinated Jan. 4 during a special event held for Duval County school workers.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.