Coronavirus

ISDH opening vaccine eligibility to teachers, school staff members next week

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana teachers, aides and other staff can soon sign up for the coronavirus vaccine.

The announcement Wednesday afternoon came as a surprise to the teachers union. “I will tell you, this is one we didn’t see coming,” said Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Starting Monday, the association’s battle is over; teachers and other personnel, including licensed child care providers, will be eligible to sign up to get the vaccine anywhere in Indiana.

The list of educators and support staff is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and includes:

  • Teachers and staff in prekindergarten through high school.
  • Child care centers.
  • Head Start and Early Start programs.
  • Licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.
  • Classroom aides, bus drivers, janitors, counselors.
  • Administration staff, cafeteria worker, and substitute teachers.

“We believe that getting educators vaccinated so that we can get all of our students back into the classroom and get that process back to a little bit more normal is what’s best for students and their families,” Gambill said.

Up until now, state health officials had maintained their approach was purely based on risk factors for COVID-19 death or severe complications; Indiana officials kept teachers ineligible until a federal program at Meijer, Walmart and Kroger opened to educators last week.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday’s announcement isn’t a change. “Well, I would say it wasn’t a 180 on our part. We had a plan. We were executing that plan very methodically; I would use the word ‘perfectly’ or ‘flawlessly.'”

But, federal authorities made it clear Indiana had to open the system up fully to teachers as surrounding states have done. “We were using data to drive our decisions about who was most at risk,” the Republican governor said. “The administration, our federal partners, have said you need to add in to any site, so we will do that.”

The teachers’ association leader said, “Thanks to President (Joe) Biden for his leadership in making sure this became a reality.”

Indiana health officials also announced Wednesday that they’ve opened up eligibility to Hoosiers with a number of different health conditions which put them at increased risk of death or complications from COVID-19. Among them are conditions including cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, severe asthma, spina bifida and those in an immunocompromised state such as HIV.

“I promise we push and we’re going to keep on going as fast as we get vaccine available,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health.

If you think you might qualify with one of those health conditions, contact your doctor if you haven’t heard from them already.

Statements

“President Biden affirmed last week what so many Hoosiers knew: it is absolutely necessary to vaccine Indiana’s teachers, because not only are they some of our essential workers, but doing so would reopen our classrooms and get our kids back on the pathway to better futures. The Indiana Democratic Party repeatedly called for teachers to be a priority for a vaccine, and the Indiana Republican Party repeatedly disrespected our educators. The contrast couldn’t be more stark, and moving forward, Hoosiers have zero reason to trust Holcomb and the Republican Party to look after the future of our education system.”

John Zody, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party

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