Expansion of COVID vaccine access to include K-12 educators and school staff could mark a major step toward full return to face-to-face learning in Louisiana schools, the State Superintendent of Education said Thursday.
Vaccination of early childhood center workers and K-12 and support staff will begin Monday, Feb. 22, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today.
“I’m grateful and relieved to know our early childhood workers, as well as k-12 educators and school staff, now have access to this vaccine,” Brumley said in a statement after the announcement. “This signifies the value of our essential employees and will enable even more Louisiana centers and schools to be fully open to serve students, families and communities.
“I extend my thanks to Governor Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Health and our state’s medical professionals for working alongside us throughout this pandemic and for making our educational community a priority,” he said. “Although not perfect, Louisiana has managed to maintain an early childcare system and a k-12 educational program throughout this pandemic.”
Brumley first requested priority.”
Dr. Brumley first requested priority vaccine access for educators and staff in a Dec. 12, 2020 letter to LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips, copied to Governor Edwards. This request drew national attention being one of the first official requests of its kind as it included priority access not just for k-12 teachers and staff but for early childcare center workers as well.
His request drew national attention being one of the first official requests of its kind as it included priority access not just for k-12 teachers and staff but for early childcare center workers as well. This letter was followed by similar requests from advocates across the state.
According to the latest data available on the Department’s School Reopening Dashboard, 67 percent of students are participating in fully in-person instruction, 20 percent are fully virtual and around 13 percent are in a hybrid setting.
Distribution of the vaccines will be determined through the state Department of Health and will not be based on population or geographic location, Brumley said.
“What we have been doing over the last month is working through early childcare centers and working with school systems to help them think through a process for a delivery of the vaccine to employees in the event this day would happen,” he said. “Across the state, we’ve seen systems and childcare centers that have worked with pharmacies, clinics and hospitals for delivery of the vaccine in the event this day happens, and they’ve had discussions on whether they’d have sites on school campuses or if they go off campus to get the vaccine, and we feel that most school systems know the quantity they would need.”
The DOE requested priority access for employees in early childhood centers, as well as the pre-K-12 educators, teachers and leaders. It will also include cafeteria workers, support staff and school bus drivers.
That total statewide amounts to approximately 167,000, Brumley said.
For over a month, the Department has been working with local systems to develop vaccine distribution plans to help ensure equitable access to these voluntary vaccines and vaccine information.
This guidance included identifying the total number of vaccinations needed for their school system as well as recommending that systems coordinate with vaccine partners such as a hospital, clinic, pharmacy, Public Health Office or other entity.
Vaccination eligibility expanded Monday
The next expansion of COVID vaccine opened eligibility Monday, Feb. 22 to K-12 teachers, school support staff, day care staff, those who are pregnant, and Louisianans aged 55-64 with certain health conditions.
This group represents around 475,000 Louisianans and will bring the total population eligible in Louisiana to nearly 1.65 million people. Louisiana is currently vaccinating people in Priority Group 1B-Tier One.
Louisiana’s COVID vaccination strategy relies on making vaccine doses available across the state through community clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and other health care providers. So far, 812,962 total vaccine doses have been administered in Louisiana, with 271,216 Louisianans receiving both doses.
As dose allocations of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from the federal government have increased week over week through direct allocations to the states and to a federal pharmacy program Louisiana opted in to, the Governor decided to expand the population that is eligible for the vaccine.
“Teachers, school support staff and daycare employees have played a critical role throughout this pandemic and their safety is important to our continued recovery,” Gov. Edwards said. “We also know that those people with certain underlying health issues are more likely to have severe or devastating outcomes from COVID, which is why we are expanding vaccine access to people ages 55 to 64 with certain health conditions as outlined by the CDC.
“Thanks to continued increases in the availability of vaccine doses to the state of Louisiana from our federal partners, I am confident that now is the right time to continue to expand eligibility,” he said. “People will still have to be patient and the vaccine doses are still limited, but this is a positive step forward for our state. It is my hope that soon even more people will be able to get these safe and effective vaccines in Louisiana.”
The Louisiana Dept. of Health has published the list of participating providers on its website: covidvaccine.la.gov. In addition, residents can call 211 to find a vaccine provider near them.
Eligible residents must contact a participating provider to make an appointment. Patients who arrive without an appointment will not be vaccinated. LDH cannot make appointments for patients; only providers can.
Patients should receive their second dose of the COVID vaccine at the same location where they received their first dose. Second-dose appointments should be made during the administration of the first dose.
There are some expected delays associated with vaccine delivery this week because of extreme winter weather. Some providers may have to reschedule vaccine appointments for both first and second doses.
The CDC guidance states that the second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval, which is 21 or 28 days between doses, as possible, but the shot will still be effective if there is a delay in getting the second dose.There is no need for people to restart the vaccination series if the second dose must be delayed because of weather, but people should contact their providers to reschedule.