South Carolina teachers pushing for COVID-19 vaccine priority

South Carolina teachers pushing for COVID-19 vaccine priority
South Carolina teachers are pushing Gov. Henry McMaster to prioritize them in the current vaccine distribution plan. (Source: Live 5 News)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina teachers are pushing Gov. Henry McMaster to prioritize them in the current vaccine distribution plan.

Individuals in that age group were originally part of Phase 1c, but they were able to jump in front of teachers and essential workers who are included in phase 1b.

“We have a moral and an ethical duty to first vaccinate the South Carolinians who are at the highest risk of dying from the virus,” McMaster said. “At this time, placing a younger person between a senior citizen and what could be their lifesaving shot would be unconscionable and irresponsible. Today’s action will save lives and allow our teachers to be vaccinated next.”

Many educators believe the state’s seniors should be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but they say teachers should also be eligible.

“It is disheartening to hear others may be getting more priority over teachers, but we certainly don’t want to say that they don’t deserve it, or those people shouldn’t get it,” Summerville Education Association president Mary Rita Watson said. “Everyone that needs it should get it. If we’re pushing for face to face five days a week, which is what our governor wants, then teachers should be a priority.”

While some school districts have already operated on full face-to-face instruction, others like Dorchester District 2 will start the process later this month, whether teachers get vaccinated or not.

Some teachers believe that by continuing to delay priority for them, school districts may have to work backwards.

“I think my concern as a teacher is that there are so few teachers and so few substitutes available that as teachers become ill because they have not yet been vaccinated, we’ll be working backwards, and we’ll be moving from face-to-face instruction back to virtual settings or unideal situations because we just don’t have the means or the faculty to be able to meet the needs of our in-person learners,” DD2 teacher Trever Etminan said.

State Senate majority leader Sen. Shane Massey has joined other lawmakers and educators urging the governor to prioritize teachers to get students back to school.

“I think the longer that we wait to get the children back in school five days a week, the more difficult is going to be and the more those children are going to lose,” he said. “I think prioritizing teachers in the vaccination process is going to allow schools state-wide to open five days in person.”

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