Teachers, school districts begin acting on vaccine plans after Phase 1B announcement

Teachers, school districts begin acting on vaccine plans after Phase 1B announcement

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina teachers can begin getting vaccinated on Monday, March 8 as part of Phase 1B, Gov. Henry McMaster and State Superintendent Molly Spearman announced Tuesday.

In a news conference, Spearman encouraged district superintendents to immediately put their vaccination plans in motion.

“I have communicated to district superintendents, and I hope they’re on the phone as we are speaking, calling their providers to get their allotment agreed upon and ready to go,” she said.

McMaster required districts to submit a plan in February for the rollout, and connect with a provider about vaccinating teachers.

This is where some local districts stand on connecting with a provider:

  • Richland 1: Prisma Health will administer vaccines
  • Richland 2: A spokesperson said a provider has verbally agreed to provide vaccine doses, waiting on a contractual agreement
  • Lexington 1: Lexington Medical Center will provide doses
  • Lexington 2: As of Feb. 26, was in talks with Lexington Medical Center
  • Lexington 3: Working with Lexington Medical Center and neighboring school districts
  • Lexington 4: Plans to partner with Lexington Medical Center
  • LR5: MUSC will provide vaccines
  • Kershaw County: Partnered with Kershaw Health to provide vaccines

Teacher advocacy organization SC for Ed released a statement stating it appreciated the announcement, but teachers should have been prioritized among Phase 1B groups.

Palmetto State Teachers Association Director of Governmental Affairs Patrick Kelly echoed the sentiment, stating the lack of prioritization will make opening schools harder.

“The cumulative effect is it will delay educator vaccine access, and unfortunately for our students, educator vaccine access is essential to ensure our schools are operating the way that they should,” he said.

DHEC’s original Phase 1B included an estimated 573,501 people. The expanded Phase 1B is estimated to include 2.7 million.

Some Midlands teachers are concerned about how that will impact districts’ abilities to secure doses.

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Richland 2 English teacher Keely Hitchings said she was grateful teachers would be allowed to get vaccinated, but expressed concern for less privileged areas.

“Some places with fewer resources or further away from healthcare hubs may have a difficult time getting access,” she said.

Lexington-Richland 5 Math teacher Reina Floyd expressed frustration over the timing of the announcement.

“It’s too late, like yes thank you that it’s happening but educators have been dying and they’re continuing to die because they have not been prioritized,” she said.

Spokespersons for both Prisma and Lexington Medical Centers said they would be releasing information on their rollout plans in the near future.

The governor said now that teachers can get the vaccine he wants all schools to open back up full-time, though he never believed vaccines were a pre-requisite for doing so.

“I’ve repeatedly asked the General Assembly to send me a bill requiring schools to offer all parents the option of in person five day a week instruction for their children. They must have that option,” McMaster said. “Today I repeat that request to the General Assembly. There are no more excuses or justifications for every one of our schools not to be open for in person five days a week instruction. The consequences of not doing that are immeasurable. Our schools must be open.”

Spearman urged all teachers to get the vaccine so they can come out of quarantine and get in the classroom and get parents back to work full time.

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