COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is asking school districts across the state to finalize their plans for getting teachers the COVID-19 vaccine and provide it to education leaders.
During a Thursday press conference with S.C. State Superintendent Molly Spearman, McMaster cited information from a survey from the state Department of Education that 37 school districts out of the 79 in S.C. currently have a plan to vaccinate employees in coordination with a local hospital or approved healthcare provider.
The governor added that 19 districts have communicated with local healthcare providers, but have not formalized a plan with them to get vaccinations. McMaster added that 25 districts indicated no plan or provided no evidence of creating such a plan.
McMaster said it’s critical that healthcare providers know in advance how many teachers want the vaccine in order to ensure a sufficient supply.
School districts in S.C. have employed approximately 122,876 staffers for the 2020-21 school year, according to McMaster. Of that number, he said, approximately 57,307 are teachers. Roughly 58%, or 32,265 teachers, have indicated they will take the vaccine when it is offered to them, the governor stated.
Starting Monday, Feb. 8, those in S.C. aged 65 or older can begin scheduling appointments to receive the vaccine. According to McMaster, the state has over 300,000 residents between the ages of 65 and 69.
As it stands, teachers and school support staff are in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine rollout, which is expected to begin in early spring.
S.C. teachers have pushed McMaster to prioritize them in the current vaccine distribution plan. This comes as the push continues to return students to full-time face-to-face instruction.
Both McMaster and Spearman cited studies Thursday indicating there is little evidence that schools are contributing to community spread of the coronavirus.
“Our classrooms may be the safest places from the virus,” McMaster said.
Spearman said there is growing evidence from within the state, as well as the nation, that “schools are not the superspreaders they were once feared to be.”
“In the summer, we didn’t know how it was going to work. Now we do,” Spearman said.