School board member calls for governor to prioritize teachers in Phase 1b of vaccine distribution

Some teachers frustrated over DHEC vaccine vote

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - As it stands now, teachers will not receive priority for COVID-19 vaccine appointments when South Carolina moves to Phase 1b in the state’s distribution plan, but one school leader wants that to change.

In the most recent South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting, a 20-3 vote kept the Department of Health and Environmental Control from prioritizing any subgroup over another in Phase 1b.

This goes against state Superintendent Molly Spearman’s recent request to get school staff to the front of the line when vaccinations enter that phase.

DHEC cited logistical issues and the chance for it to inadvertently slow down distribution, as a reason to vote against prioritizing anyone within Phase 1b. The agency said all subgroups will be looked at the same way during this phase.

Other essential workers in this phase would include grocery store and postal workers. DHEC said South Carolina could enter this phase in late winter 2021.

“We have an opportunity to get our teachers the vaccine, the bus drivers, all school employees, to open up the schools safely and that kind of a vote just doesn’t make any sense,” Georgetown County School Board Member Mike Cafaro said.

He’s worried Phase 1b won’t vaccinate educators quickly enough and wants to see teachers at the front of the line. He said if Gov. Henry McMaster can make executive orders regarding restaurants and bars, he should step in here.

“It just doesn’t make any sense for the governor to make executive orders and ask to open the schools and then prioritize the vaccination for school employees,” Cafaro said.

And he’s not the only one frustrated.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not very surprising that we wouldn’t see teachers prioritized,” teacher and SC for ED Research Director Steve Nuzum said.

Overall Nuzum said he’s frustrated there’s another issue impacting teachers without a concrete message coming down from the state.

“It would be nice to see some more inner agency discussions happening so we didn’t just get these statements and proclamations from people that never seem to be on the same page,” Nuzum added.

The governor’s spokesperson said while nothing’s off the table, everyone in Phase 1b is already a priority over the general public and reemphasized that educators are essential.

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