How Schools Can Help With The Vaccination RolloutBy Richard Barth
Now that Covid-19 vaccination efforts across the country are in full swing and President Joe Biden has asked state governors to prioritize teachers for vaccination, everybody is wondering: how are we going to distribute the vaccines? Including schools as vaccination sites will help ensure teachers get vaccinated.
While guidance from the White House does not make teacher vaccinations a prerequisite for reopening schools, vaccinating teachers is a positive step in reopening schools, getting people back to work, and kickstarting the economy. The next step should be including all public schools in a nationwide rollout effort. The Council of the Great City Schools, which includes 76 of the largest public-school systems, is already pushing to use school buildings as vaccination sites. Schools are not only already connected to teachers, students and families, they are also strategically located in urban and rural areas to provide easy access to the larger community.
And this is something that has been done before. Laurie Combe, president of the National Association of School Nurses, has spoken about how, during the H1N1 outbreak, school districts in Texas worked to vaccinate the general public on weekends.
Now that the federal government has stepped in to encourage states to prioritize teachers for vaccination, the Biden-Harris administration should provide incentives for states to prioritize teachers and set forth a clear plan for distribution. Here are some recommendations:
Use schools as vaccination sites. There are 12,000 school buildings in major cities and a precedent for schools to be used as vaccination sites. The White House’s emergency vaccination plan already includes school gyms within the list of facilities that can serve as community immunization sites. There should be a widespread push to set up vaccination drives at schools, which will not only ensure that teachers can get vaccinated where they work, but also provide community-based vaccination access for other eligible groups. KIPP schools and districts in Los Angeles and Alaska, are ready and eager to be partners in this effort.
I realize that this might seem like an unsurmountable burden to place on schools that are already overwhelmed. But most schools are not currently operating at full capacity, so there is unused space. For example, physical education and theatre classes have been halted in schools, so that allows the use of those spaces. And if the use of facilities is an issue, there have been successful drive-through models that could be set up that doesn’t require additional indoor space. Many schools already have on-site space for nurses that could be used.
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