SC Senate passes bill to move teachers to the front of the vaccine line

Updated: Feb. 9, 2021 at 7:51 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State senators unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would move teachers, school staff, and daycare workers higher up in the state’s vaccine rollout.

The bill would add teachers to Phase 1A, the current phase of eligibility. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control would have to vaccinate teachers and school staff members who want the shot starting 30 days after Gov. Henry McMaster signs the bill into law.

But in return, teachers would need to go back to face-to-face instruction five days per week.

In the state’s rollout plans, teachers are in Phase 1B, but education advocates have been calling for teachers to be moved up.

House members have not yet discussed moving teachers into Phase 1A.

McMaster’s signature would be required for the bill to become law. The governor took to Twitter Tuesday night in response to the Senate’s vote to again express his disapproval of moving educators higher up.

“Seniors are getting vaccinated in greater numbers each day,” McMaster said in a post. “Breaking faith by slowing down, disrupting, canceling, or delaying any senior’s vaccination shot is a bad idea with deadly consequences. I cannot - and will not - allow their lives to be jeopardized.”

State senators are also considering a bill to provide extra funds to improve the state’s vaccination efforts.

It would send $208 million to DHEC, MUSC, and other hospitals to improve testing and vaccinations. Under that bill, retired health care workers and other trained professionals like dentists would be able to vaccinate others.

MUSC officials said the bill would help fund rural healthcare clinics and vaccine drive-thru events. It could also help set up regional vaccine advisory committees to help fill in gaps in coverage statewide.

“Some of our health care facilities have no hospitals. They have very few providers and we want to fill the gaps where appropriate and take DHEC’s lead and the governor and our legislature’s lead and provide resources to that area as soon as possible,” MUSC Government Relations Director Mark Sweatman said.

Some of that money could also help market and promote the vaccine.

Among state lawmakers, there is support on both sides of the aisles for the funding. The House already passed a similar funding bill.

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