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Vaccine on the way for school staff and childcare workers

On March 2, Gov. Jay Inslee expanded Phase 1B Tier 1 of the state’s vaccination plan to include preK-12 educators, school staff, and childcare workers. The expansion aligns with a directive President Biden issued the same day.

The goal is for all teachers to have at least one vaccine dose by the end of March. Doing so will require teamwork from partners across all levels of government, with a big assist from the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

We welcome the news! It fits in with our role of supporting local school districts as they return students and staff to safe, in-person learning.

What will this look like in Pierce County?

The state Department of Health (DOH) estimates 260,000 school and childcare staff work in this state. Pierce County has about 21,000 K-12 teachers and staff.

The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will provide additional vaccine supply for this group. DOH estimates 281,000 doses will be available in Washington through the program by the end of March.

The program’s 9,000-plus pharmacies will prioritize vaccinating these groups during March. The pharmacies will also honor any existing appointments.

In Washington, pharmacies at national chains such as Albertsons, Costco, Health Mart, Rite Aid and Walmart are part of the program. The CDC has a web page with a list of pharmacies in each state

And more vaccines are on the way. The Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine received an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA and was cleared by the CDC. And both Moderna and Pfizer are planning to increase production by the end of March.

We don’t know all the details of this new program yet. The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction provided some answers for school staff. And we expect to learn more in the days ahead.

One more step on the path back to normal life.

All of this is great news as we continue our fight against COVID-19. Vaccinated teachers and staff will make our schools safer and move them closer to fully opening. Another approved vaccine and increased vaccine production will get more vaccine into more arms faster.

And more people will be eligible for vaccine soon. On Thursday, Gov. Inslee announced that by March 22, workers in certain congregate settings like agriculture, transit, corrections and first response will be eligible. People age 16+ who are pregnant or who have a disability that puts them at higher risk will also become eligible then.

So, keep up the great work, Pierce County. You’re helping keep our case rates low. In the meantime, make sure you:

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Teacher stands in classroom wearing mask