By MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — As millions of students approach a year of learning remotely during the pandemic, vaccination has been eyed as one way to safely reopen classrooms.
While the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said that it could be possible to get back to school safely without relying on vaccinating teachers, the issue has been a sticking point for education advocates and unions.
Just after midnight Wednesday, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to approve a tentative agreement on reopening school classrooms safely that included “gains” on vaccinations, among other concerns.
School staff “will now have access to vaccines and enforceable safety measures that should have been in place before they were asked to step foot back into their buildings,” the union said in a statement.
In Illinois, teachers and other education staff are currently eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Amid the country’s patchwork of vaccine rollouts, teachers in other states are still waiting in line behind other essential workers or vulnerable populations.
Vaccine prioritization may also vary within a state. In California, Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee and Wyoming, eligibility may be determined at the county level or contingent on vaccine supply. As a result, some counties are vaccinating teachers before others have opened up appointments to them.
Cities may also differ from their state’s plan. In Pennsylvania, which currently is in phase 1A of its vaccine rollout, teachers are included in phase 1B. Philadelphia County is a separate vaccine jurisdiction, and last month Philadelphia officials announced the city was moving forward to phase 1B of its vaccine rollout.
Some states have made a special effort to prioritize teachers. In West Virginia, teachers ages 50 and up are currently eligible, along with people ages 65 and up. Minnesota launched a community vaccine program last month, with select vaccination clinics serving pre-K-12 educators, school staff, child care workers and those ages 65 and older.
In two states — Rhode Island and Vermont — educators aren’t a priority group. Neither are other front-line workers like grocery store clerks or public transit staff. Instead, both states are primarily using an age-based approach for their rollouts beyond vulnerable populations and those providing direct care, such as residents of long-term care facilities, health care workers and first responders.
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