Teachers’ Union Pleased with PA Vaccination Decision

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service
for The Posts

HARRISBURG PA – The union representing more than 170,000 school employees statewide – including those in the Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford Area, Perkiomen Valley, Upper Perkiomen, Boyertown Area, and Phoenixville Area school districts – is praising a new coronavirus vaccination plan intended to make returning to in-person instruction safer for education workers, students, and communities.

Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, suggested it will be a big boost for the entire state’s recovery from the pandemic. “Making the vaccine available to school staff is a key step to getting more students back in the classroom, more parents back to work without worry, and our economy back on track,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s bipartisan COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force on Thursday (March 3, 2021) announced its approval of a plan designating more than 94,000 doses of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine for school employees.

The plan expects to make the vaccine available not only to teachers but to all those working in school systems, including secretaries, maintenance staffers, and bus drivers.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday (Feb. 27) authorized the J&J vaccine for emergency use. Pennsylvania expects to receive its doses this week. “Teachers and staff who work with our children will be vaccinated,” Gov. Tom Wolf declared, saying the decision “adds another layer of support to get students and teachers back in the classroom.”

Askey observed the initial designation of 94,600 doses of the vaccine isn’t quite enough to do the whole job. He added, though, that the anticipated rapid expansion of vaccine supplies means more shots will be available in coming weeks. “So I think the governor’s goal to get all public-school and private-school employees vaccinated by the first week of April, that’s a do-able plan,” Askey agreed.

With intermediate vaccination units being set up across the state, he believes some school employees could start getting their shots in about a week.

Deciding to get vaccinated is an individual choice. Askey encouraged those who are concerned about vaccine safety to speak with their doctors. “Our members know the importance of safety, know the importance that a vaccination makes in making our schools safer, so I’m happy to encourage everyone to go get their shot. I sure plan on doing that,” he said.

An “overwhelming number” of PSEA members have asked for access to the vaccines, Askey reported. He credited Wolf and lawmakers on the task force for quickly taking action to support education in Pennsylvania by making schools and their staff safer.

Disclosure: Pennsylvania State Education Association contributes to a Public News Service fund for reporting.

Photo by the federal Centers for Disease Control via Unsplash, used under license