Texas educators pushing for COVID-19 vaccine priority

HOUSTON – Educators are essential workers and they are looking to get vaccinated. Many in our area wondering and waiting for the COVID19 vaccine.

HISD is working with the City of Houston Health Department on vaccine availability for priority groups. That includes school nurses and other staff members that meet the criteria of Phases 1A and 1B, which also includes health care workers, first responders, and those 65 or older with certain chronic medical conditions.

The Texas AFT says all educators and support staff should get the vaccine regardless of the different categories.

On Monday, schools in Texas will be back in session, but the start of the new year has some educators concerned about a spike in cases from the holiday break.

“Our teachers are just not convinced that particularly they’ve been away from their students for a couple of weeks now how have they all been washing their hands doing the same things they would do in the classroom,” said Zaph Capo, the President of The Texas American Federation of Teachers.

Capo says educators and support staff should be next to get the COVID-19. The CDC recommends that teachers be considered essential workers.

States have the power to decide who gets the vaccine, and in Texas, teachers are not listed in the 1B category.

“They’ve called us essential workers when they needed schools open for the economy, but they are not prioritizing educators who are in the classroom with 20, 25 or 30 kids,” Capo said.

The City of Houston says it wants to prioritize teachers and are working with local superintendents to come up with a plan of action.

“We do want to keep our kids in school as best as we can and so that means making sure teachers, cafeteria workers, the bus drivers and others receive the vaccine,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

Meanwhile, Harris County says they are working to get more doses, and when that happens educators that fit the Phase 1A and 1B categories will be able to sign up. The desire to get vaccinated now is leading to frustration.

Lupe Mendez says his appointment was canceled because he does not qualify for the vaccine. Mendez told KPRC that his wife has an autoimmune disease and he travels to different campuses.

“He absolutely should be getting the vaccine because of the potential risk not only to himself but also to his family because of his situation,” Capo said.

In addition, HISD health care partner Next Level will also be providing vaccines to eligible HISD employees.