Every day I listen to concerned school staff lamenting how they cannot get a COVID vaccine. It is adding to the tremendous stress that teachers and school staff are facing. I scour availability across my state in the hopes that I can help coordinate an appointment. The phone lines are down for the centralized state number; no go on that option. I was in a cue with one of the mega-sites only to learn after an hour that I was 4320 in line, but the availability for vaccines was less than 1000 shots; not happening this day. It feels like I am playing whack a mole, trying to help friends get their vaccine.
The COVID vaccine distribution will be accelerating, for which I am grateful. But, many teachers are not scheduled until late spring/early summer. It is troublesome to know there is pressure for schools to re-open without full protection. I understand the “Swiss Cheese Model,” but it is not sufficient to quell fear and anxiety without access to the vaccine: The Swiss Cheese Model of Pandemic Defense It’s not edible, but it can save lives.
There are many layers of protection that cover the holes on each slice of the “Swiss Cheese Model,” but the ultimate protection is the vaccine with a 94-95% documented effectiveness.
While schools may not choose to mandate teacher/staff vaccination, there is clear support for the vaccine by school staff. Yet availability and teacher priority are sorely lacking. Are we living in a state of cognitive dissonance? How do we hear arguments of reopening schools, yet do not prioritize our school staff to have the highest level of protection? Make the COVID vaccine available to school staff, also on the frontline of COVID. Otherwise, we are still playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff. This has been my argument from the beginning of COVID.
The inequity of the COVID rollout illustrates the depth of structural racism. In the 1A category of vaccine eligibility, the majority of vaccines have been received by White people. In one hospital, the vaccine registration system was communicated in an email, the trouble is, hospital janitorial staff had no access to the hospital email system and were not included in the rollout.
“That’s what structural racism looks like,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Those groups were seen and not heard — nobody thought about it.”
Here is the full article for your review, the content is alarming. To say we must “do better” is a slap in the face to communities of color who have endured long histories of racist policies that continue through COVID. What actions will be taken, and when?