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State unveils COVID-19 vaccination plan for school employees

 

Last updated 1/31/2021 at 11:43pm

Photo courtesy of Seattle Times via DOH.

The vaccination effort is rolling out in phases and teachers are in the upcoming 2a stage. Also included in that phase are other essential workers: police, firefighters, grocery workers and others unable to work remotely, and therefore unable to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.

Equitably and safely vaccinating Washington state educators and school staff is the goal of the new "Get Ready" plan announced Friday, Jan. 29, by State Schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal and Kaiser Permanente Washington president Susan Mullaney.

The plan, according to a news release, is designed to be launch-ready when personnel become eligible under Washington state's vaccination protocols, and will focus on supporting a safe return to school for communities across the state and ensures a commitment to fairness, equity, and consistency in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Keeping our educators and school staff safe is very important to me," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "This announcement does not allow educators to move ahead in the current prioritization, it means when it is their turn, we are ready to move ahead.

"I'm excited about today's announcement and look forward to working with Superintendent Reykdal, Kaiser Permanente, and our labor partners as we continue our efforts to make sure our educators and school staff have rapid and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible."

The announced plan will include approximately 14 to 20 vaccination locations along the I-5 corridor and in Spokane, which will be capable of offering vaccination to upwards of 80% of school employees.

OSPI and DOH are additionally planning further efforts to define potential sites more proximate to Central Washington school employees.

"Knowing we needed a plan for vaccinating our 143,000 school employees, my first call was to Susan Mullaney and the Kaiser Permanente team," said Reykdal.

"Although our schools are already reopening safely without widespread vaccinations, we know this will expedite that process and ultimately benefit our students, their families, our educators and staff, and our communities as a whole."

School districts are encouraged to maintain existing vaccination plans already in development; however, this integrated approach will offer an equitable approach to vaccinating school employees in Washington.

All vaccination efforts will be in coordination with the newly formed Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center, and vaccine availability will continue to be dependent upon the number of vaccines the state receives.

"The health and safety of our students, staff, and families are a top priority for our state, and we're proud to support school employees and lead on equitable vaccine distribution," said Mullaney.

"Vaccines are a crucial step needed to get our students and school employees back to school safely, and we are preparing the needed infrastructure now so we can be launch ready when our state approves the next phase of eligibility. We also look forward to working with our colleagues at Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest to ensure the full coverage of our southwest Washington school employees."

The plan will include dedicated vaccine resources and space provided by Kaiser Permanente at its owned and operated clinics as well as K-12 school locations for both member and nonmember school employees. School districts are encouraged to maintain existing vaccination plans already in development, but a website and updated information on this integrated approach will offer centrally accessible information about timing, scheduling, and links to state resources such as Phase Finder and more.

"It's critical to support school staff as our schools reopen. Educational Service Districts are ready to provide strong, coordinated support on this massive effort, which has the potential to vaccinate 50,000 employees in the Puget Sound region alone," said John Welch, Superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District.

Throughout the state, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and highlighted new and existing health, education, racial and digital inequities, including reduced or inconsistent access to learning support, digital and online access for students and families, early intervention supports, healthy meals, safe environments, and social opportunities.

Those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine currently include groups in Phase 1 Tier 1A, 2A, and 1B. Educators and staff in K-12 facilities are expected to be eligible to receive the vaccine after 50 percent of the currently eligible population are vaccinated, in accordance with DOH plans.

Future phases of the vaccination process are not yet established.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine or to determine which phase you are included in, visit the Washington State Department of Health website at http://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/vaccine.

 

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