SPOKANE, Wash — A plan in the works aims to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to teachers and school staff throughout Washington state.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Kaiser Permanente are partnering to get vaccines to educators. Their "Get Ready" plan is designed to be launch-ready when personnel are eligible in Washington, and will focus on a safe return to school and commitment to fairness, equity and consistency of vaccine distribution.
OSPI said the plan includes approximately 14 to 20 vaccination locations along the I-5 corridor and in Spokane, which will be able to offer vaccines to upwards of 80% of school employees. The DOH and OSPI are also working to define potential sites that are closer to school employees in Central Washington.
Susan Mullaney, president of Kaiser Permanente Washington, said the company has five locations that could be used as vaccination sites in Spokane. Kaiser could also partner with other organizations in the community if necessary, she added.
Those who are eligible to receive the vaccine in Washington right now include those in Phase 1 Tiers 1A, 2A and 1B. Phase 2B, which includes educators and staff in K-12 schools who are 50 years or older, is expected to begin in February. Teachers and school staff under the age of 50 will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in April.
Those who are looking to determine their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine can use Washington's PhaseFinder tool.
Tap here to watch the full press conference from OSPI and Kaiser on YouTube.
Currently, educators and staff in K-12 schools will be eligible for the vaccine after 50% of those who are currently eligible are vaccinated, according to plans from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
“Keeping our educators and school staff safe is very important to me. This announcement does not allow educators to move ahead in the current prioritization, it means when it is their turn, we are ready to move ahead,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in part.
Vaccine availability will continue to be dependent upon the number of doses allocated to Washington state, OSPI said.
The promise of vaccinations on the way is a relief for some educators, but it won't mean students will return to their classrooms right away.
Teachers unions and districts must agree to certain COVID-19 safety precautions, like smaller classes, masking, and improved ventilation before in-person learning resumes.
Some districts are not waiting for the vaccine and already starting to bring kids back to their desks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who will join the Biden administration as chief medical advisor, said vaccinations will be an essential step toward reopening schools.
“It's extremely important to get children back into school and kept in school and the idea of vaccinating teachers is very high up in the priority,” he said in a December interview.