School districts need to press Texas to vaccinate teachers, union says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Many teachers across the state continue to wait for their turn to get vaccinated, despite having to go back to classrooms months ago.

"We agree students need to be in school, but also want to be safe," said Jackie Anderson, the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

In the midst of the pandemic, teachers have emerged as some of the most essential workers, weathering the many educational challenges that have happened over the last year.

Many teachers have returned back to in-person learning, a choice made by school districts that has angered some, which is why there is frustration that teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria works and custodial staff have not been prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine.

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"We don't have a problem with teaching, it's what we do," Anderson said. "But, we don't want to risk our lives doing it."

On the Centers for Disease Control website, teachers are listed under their recommendation for who would qualify for the shot under the 1B group.

Currently, Texas is providing shots to those in 1A and 1B, but the state health department has decided to focus on vaccinating those 65 years and older as well as those with underlying health conditions. Teachers who qualify under those specific groups can get the shot, but the others have to wait.

A statement on the matter from Gov. Abbott's Press Secretary Renae Eze reads:
"Students have been out of the classrooms for too long, jeopardizing their long-term education and success as adults. The Governor views the vaccination of teachers and other frontline workers as a key component to fully opening the state, which he is working aggressively to safely achieve as quickly as possible. Across Texas, teachers who are over 65 years old or have qualifying health conditions are already receiving the vaccine. As the limited vaccine supplies from the federal government begin to increase, we will continue to expand vaccinations of teachers and other Texans until everyone who wants a vaccine receives one."

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ABC13 reached out to a few districts for details about how they are working to get staff vaccinated.

Cy-Fair ISD has vaccinated its campus nurses through Harris County. Fort Bend ISD has partnered with local agencies to help coordinate vaccines. Katy ISD has sent a survey out to staff to help identify those who qualify for the shot and provide assistance. Pearland ISD is sharing vaccine registration and resources with staff.

None of the districts could share any numbers on how many staff members were vaccinated. One district said they were not keeping track.

"The [school districts] need to push on the state. The need to push on the [Texas Education Agency]," Anderson said. "They need to push on the governor. They need to push on the commissioner. The need to say, 'Look, if you want these schools open, help us get these teachers vaccinated.'"

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