By ANNE FLAHERTY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Teachers and child care staff are now being offered vaccine appointments at some 9,000 pharmacy locations nationwide, even if their state hasn’t declared them eligible yet.
The push to get every educator their first vaccine dose this month is part of President Joe Biden’s latest directive aimed at prying open classrooms by using a federally run program that ships doses directly to pharmacies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which manages the program, announced the effort on its website. And as of Wednesday morning, CVS — one of the pharmacies participating in the program — had already updated its website to note that “teachers K-12 and child care workers” were now eligible to sign up for a vaccine shot in every state.
“If you’re a teacher, if you’re a childcare worker, if you’re a staff worker, if you’re a bus driver in a school, you are eligible to go to that pharmacy and get your vaccine. And we want all teachers to have at least one vaccination the month of March,” David Kessler, a senior White House adviser, told MSNBC.
Kessler said teachers can find participating pharmacies on the CDC website, then sign up directly with that pharmacy.
Biden announced the initiative on Tuesday evening in a speech announcing that the U.S. was now on track to have enough vaccine for all adults by the end of May.
Officials caution though it will take time to administer shots.
“My challenge to all states, territories, and the District of Columbia is this: We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” Biden said.
Teachers wouldn’t have to use the pharmacy locations if there’s another option to them. The CDC notes on its site that the 9,000 pharmacy locations would be offered to educators in addition to existing state and local COVID-19 vaccination sites.
The CDC also says that state and local officials will still determine eligibility for other populations.
“In addition, aside from reaching teachers nationwide, states and territories will also select which populations are eligible for vaccination through the program according to their vaccination plans,” the agency said.
One downside to prioritizing teachers is that it could make it tougher for people who are vulnerable to sign up to receive the vaccine. At least one former adviser to the Biden administration, Céline Gounder, said she didn’t support it.
“I am really surprised. This doesn’t make any sense,” she tweeted. “High-risk teachers (i.e. over 65 and/or with chronic medical conditions) would be vaccinated as part of those groups. Young, healthy teachers don’t need to be prioritized. Schools are among the safest in-person workplaces.”
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