The departments of Health and Education joined the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to provide additional information on the COVID-19 vaccine for PreK-12 teachers and other school staff following Gov. Tom Wolf and the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force’s associated announcement Wednesday.
“The approval of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides a great opportunity to launch this special initiative to vaccinate all teachers, child care workers and school staff without interrupting the flow of vaccine local providers have already administered to more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians,” said Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam.
The Wolf Administration is collaborating with Intermediate Units and other education partners to equitably vaccinate all school employees and contracted staff as quickly as possible.
PreK-12 public and non-public school staff across Pennsylvania will be provided an opportunity to be vaccinated, with educators and school staff working with elementary education students, students with disabilities and English learners being the first eligible to register.
Pennsylvania expects to receive an initial allocation of 94,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) single-dose vaccine this week. Allocations received by Pennsylvania from the federal government will be distributed to each IU based on the proportion of PreK-12 public and non-public school employees and contracted staff in each IU’s region.
Child care workers will be contacted by one of the local Retail Pharmacy Program partners – Rite Aid, Topco and Walmart – to schedule vaccinations using the additional, separate allocations of Johnson & Johnson vaccine they will receive from the federal government.
“I am grateful to Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislative Task Force for making educators a priority for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “After a year of unprecedented educational shifts and tensions, we are closer to relieving some constraints and increasing access to in-person learning opportunities, services, programs and supports that will positively impact entire communities.”
Philadelphia is not included in these allocations. Philadelphia County is a separate vaccine jurisdiction.
There will be at least one vaccination site per IU region. School staff will be directed to the vaccination site in the region within which their school is located. The Pennsylvania National Guard and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, LLC, a health organization contracted by PEMA for planning and staffing assistance at commonwealth-established vaccine sites, will direct operations and administer doses at these sites. Vaccination sites are expected to begin operations between March 10 and 13, with daily operational hours.
“We anticipate that the majority of these sites will support up to 500 doses a day, with some of the sites in IUs with higher amounts of teachers and support staff being able to administer up to 1,000 doses a day,” said PEMA director Randy Padfield. “We anticipate most sites will be completed administering the first found of available vaccine in 8-10 days.”
IUs will work with PreK-12 school entities to identify staff who are interested in receiving the vaccine. The following individuals will be given the first opportunity to register:
– PreK-12 teachers of students with disabilities and English learners and related in-classroom support staff
– Elementary teachers and related in-classroom support staff, beginning with the youngest students
– Bus drivers/transporters, and support staff and contracted service providers who have direct contact with elementary students
– Other priority school staff who have regular, sustained in-person contact with students during the school day
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As noted by the CDC in its recently updated guidance, access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. Even after teachers and staff are vaccinated, schools need to continue to implement mitigation strategies, including face coverings and physical distancing.