OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – A turning point in the pandemic for east Alabama’s classroom heroes. News 3 has confirmed teachers and support staff in school districts located in Lee, Chambers, and Macon County who want a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get it via East Alabama Medical Center starting as soon as next week.
EAMC Spokesperson John Atkinson tells News 3 the announcement is sending ripples of hope amongst teachers and support staff who have heroically worked virtually and in-person to make sure our children continue to learn during the pandemic.
News 3 can confirm around 1,900 teachers and support staff in Lee, Macon, and Chambers County will begin receiving the vaccine as early as next week. It could take a few weeks for all the shots to be administered as EAMC continues vaccinating other groups.
EAMC is working with the individual school systems on scheduling. EAMC released the following statement to News 3 late this afternoon:
“Regarding vaccines, our goal right now is to safely vaccinate as many residents of Lee and surrounding counties as quickly as we can to contain the virus and limit hospitalizations and deaths. Since we were able to include local first responders in our initial phase with our employees and physicians, we have begun simultaneously providing vaccines to residents age 75 and up while also working with area schools to provide vaccinations to teachers and other personnel. These groups are being handled separately, so the doses and personnel used do not impact the other. There are limited resources available in county health departments, and the burden is increasingly impacting already strained health care systems. However, we’re thankful to see our staff rising to the challenge again to assist the state as much as possible where we can. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work rapidly for the good of the overall area,” said EAMC Spokesperson John Atkinson.
Meanwhile, suppose you do not live in these counties. In that case, Alabama Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey wants you to know he continues advocating for educators and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine sooner rather than later.
“I am a strong advocate for our teachers being in the queue and staying high in the queue. I was on a phone call with 40 or so agencies yesterday, and everyone wants their constituents to be moved up. I said no offense, and you can’t move above these teachers. They are already in 1b category, and there is no way without our teachers can we get our society and economy back until we get all kids back into school,” said Dr. Mackey.
Alabama Public Health’s Vaccine Phased-in approach lists teachers and school support staff as 1b to be vaccinated, behind health care workers and long-term care residents. The state has prioritized public safety and those who are age 75 years and older – before teachers. Dr. Macky is hopeful all teachers will get their first shots by the end of February or March.
Dr. Mackey says teachers are not mandated to get the vaccine – it’s their choice. Dr. Mackey said any eventual decision to mandate vaccines or not would be made by public health officials and not likely to be considered until the vaccine receives full FDA approval.