President Joe Biden wants COVID-19 vaccines available to all teachers, school staff and childcare workers nationwide by the end of this month.
Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, the deputy assistant secretary for state and local engagement for the office of communications and outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, shared in an email on Friday that the president directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) federal pharmacy program to prioritize the vaccinations to staff at K-12 school districts, Head Start agencies and childcare centers, including school bus drivers. The U.S. Department of Education is partnering with the CDC to administer the program.
Biden challenged states to meet the vaccination goal on March 2, prior to signing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law. The bill allocates over $128 billion to schools to support them in safely reopening amid the pandemic, one of those supports being vaccine distribution.
The CDC will begin targeting states that have yet to prioritize teachers, school staff and childcare workers. It will be identifying best practices for vaccinating those working in schools and with children and addressing barriers that immunization programs have experienced. Samuel added that more information will be provided from the CDC in the coming days and weeks.
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Samuel added that in order to help states accomplish this goal, there are two avenues for obtaining vaccines. Under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services, all COVID-19 vaccination providers that are administrating the U.S. purchased COVID-19 vaccines to include educators.
“All COVID-19 vaccination providers are directed and required to make available and administer, as one of the currently eligible groups, COVID-19 vaccine to those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed childcare providers, including center-based and family care providers,” the directive from Acting Secretary Norris Cochran stated.
The second is the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program prioritizing vaccinations for school staff and childcare workers throughout this month. On March 8, teachers, and staff in pre-k-12 schools and childcare programs were able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations nationwide that are participating in the federal program.