BELL COUNTY, Texas — The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Thursday that teachers, school staff and licensed child care workers are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The change comes after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive March 2.
The order stated, "The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has determined that teachers, school staff, and child care workers hold jobs that are critical to the continued functioning of society and are at potential occupational risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. However, it has come to our attention that some states have not considered teachers, school staff, and child care workers to be currently eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine."
DSHS Associate Commissioner Imelda Garcia told reporters during an online press conference, teachers should be able to get vaccine at most state locations. She said some school districts will even become vaccine hubs.
"I expect there will be multiple pathways teachers and education staff will get vaccinated. Some will take advantage of the existing providers and hub locations and pharmacies. We will be allocating vaccine to those school districts that have enrolled as vaccine providers, and I expect some providers will partner with school districts," Garcia said.
The change did not signal the start of rollout phase 1C. The state is still deciding what that phase will look like.
"We want providers to keep vaccinating everyone in 1A and 1B priority groups. Providers should now be including them (teachers) as they administer vaccine," Garcia said.
Some vaccine providers have already made adjustments to accommodate teachers while others are still in the planning phase. 6 News received a variety of answers Thursday when asking providers if teachers are currently accepted.
The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District told 6 News Thursday teachers could sign up on its waitlist immediately. The Bell County Public Health District is still re-working its scheduling site, but will partner with local school districts over the next few weeks to distribute vaccine on campuses.
Hospitals provided different answers as well. Seton Medical Center confirmed teachers could start to apply right away.
"The Seton Medical Center Harker Heights vaccination request forms have been updated to reflect the criteria expansion for teachers and child care workers. Our staff is contacting schools in the area to make them aware," a statement said.
"The Seton Medical Center Harker Heights vaccination request forms have been updated to reflect the criteria expansion for teachers and child care workers," spokeswoman Lucy Taylor via email. "Our staff is contacting schools in the area to make them aware."
Baylor Scott and White Spokeswoman Tiya Searcy told 6 News staff is still working to accommodate teachers.
"We are encouraged by the expansion of vaccine eligibility to include more Texans, and we are working to accommodate the new groups by modifying our digital scheduling process. We anticipate having more specifics to share next week. In the meantime, as a reminder, any Texan can create a MyBSWHealth account by downloading the MyBSWHealth app – which can be done by texting BETTER to 88408 – or by visiting MyBSWHealth.com," Searcy replied.
CVS locations are part of a federal vaccine program and should already be prepared to serve teachers by appointment.
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