As state prepares to expand COVID vaccine eligibility, lawmaker urges inclusion of teachers

As state prepares to expand COVID vaccine eligibility, lawmaker urges inclusion of teachers

BATON ROUGE – Just one day after Governor John Bel Edwards announced the state’s plans to expand the pool of those eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Senator Cleo Fields is lobbying to have educators immediately added. 

Edwards said the state would lower the minimum age for vaccination eligibility and add other groups of workers, like March/April election workers, law enforcement, and members of the state’s Unified Command Group.

Fields sent the Edwards a letter Friday urging him to include K-12 educators, who are currently included in the the next tier of Phase 1b. Currently, there is no date for when they will become eligible.

“I believe it is critical that our K-12 educators be prioritized in the current phase of distribution so that they may continue to focus on teaching and feel safe returning to the classroom,” Fields wrote.

The governor responded Friday, stating he admires and appreciates teachers and educational support staff, especially during the many challenges of the pandemic.

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Though the state is limited in doses from the federal government, Edwards says Louisiana health officials and providers are working to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.

During his weekly coronavirus press briefing Thursday, Edwards addressed public demand for teachers to be given priority right away.

“We do want to get our teachers as vaccinated as soon as we can,” Edwards said. “They are the next order of priority, and I think that reflects the fact that we all believe the work they do is essential.”

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers came out in support of Fields’ letter late Friday. President, Larry Carter says for schools to remain open and continue offering in-person learning, educators must be eligible to get vaccinated.

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“Throughout this pandemic, when you think about it, our teachers and school employees have risen to the occasion again and again,” Carter said. “It’s becoming clear to us and to many, how essential educators are not only to their students, but to our state and our community.”

Fields is not faulting Edwards’ decision to prioritize those 65 and older among others, but says he will continue lobbying to allow teachers to get in line.

“At the end of the day, we still have kids who are not in the classroom, we still have teachers who are afraid to go to the classroom,” Fields said. “We can’t have a real learning environment unless we make sure, not only the teachers, but the students are safe.”

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