Teachers and staff in K-12 schools added to vaccine eligibility list

In this file photo from July 22, teachers in East Baton Rouge protest their system's planned reopening of schools. (Photo by JC Canicosa / Louisiana Illuminator)

Teachers and staff at K-12 schools and daycare facilities will be added to the list of people in Louisiana eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday at a press conference.

“We’ve always prioritized teachers as a group,” Edwards said. “Now is the right time to do this.”

Edwards said distance learning has not been optimal for students in K-12 schools, and during in-person learning in elementary schools, “it is almost impossible for teachers to remain physically distant from their students.”

Pregnant women, non-emergency medical transportation providers and staff and people aged 55-64 with one or more health conditions are also eligible. Health conditions defined by the CDC include: Cancer, Down syndrome, chronic kidney disease, immunocompromised patients from an organ transplant, obesity, and smoking.

Those groups and teachers will become eligible for vaccinations Monday.

Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley said in subsequent press availability Thursday that the Louisiana Department of Education has been advocating for teachers and daycare staff to be on the list to receive vaccines since the vaccines arrived in December, and he’s happy to see it finally happen.

“We have worked hard as an educational community in our state to educate through this pandemic,” Brumley said. “This will allow us to continue to do that work… and play an important role in allowing us to continue to keep our schools open.”

Cade said, 67 percent of Louisiana students have returned to face-to-face instruction, and “we will continue to see a growing number of school systems move back to in-person instruction.”

“Our mitigation efforts have been strong and schools have not been found… to be centers of outbreak for the virus,” Brumley said. “We believe the vaccine will be an additional tool that will allow us to move more of our schools back to face-to-face instruction.”

Brumley said the education department “doesn’t intend to take a position on whether or not an employee should or shouldn’t get the vaccine.”

In total, this adds about 475,000 Louisianans to the vaccine eligibility list. Meaning right now, 1.7 million of the state’s 4.6 million population — 37 percent — qualify for immediate vaccination.