Issue 3: Vaccine Availability Opens Up For Teachers

Biden extends COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to teachers nationwide


Photo Amelia Foster

A COVID-19 vaccine ready to be administered at a Pubilx pharmacy, where vaccination appointments are being accepted for teachers over 50.

Amelia Foster, Print Managing Editor

President Joe Biden announced on March 2 that he intends to open COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers and those who work in childcare nationwide, using the federal government’s pharmacy program with the aim being to have the first dose for all teachers by the end of March. CVS was the first major pharmacy to pledge to honor Biden’s goals, and started offering appointments to teachers.

The plan was released a day before Florida’s Executive Order Number 21-47 went into effect, stating that school employees over the age of 50 are now eligible to receive vaccines in Florida. As of March 3, CVS remains the only major pharmacy in Florida to have changed its rules to fit Biden’s announcementas other pharmacies such as Publix and Walgreens are following DeSantis’ stricter eligibility requirements for distribution of the vaccine.

Although teachers technically qualify, the actual act of booking the appointment is a barrier. For vaccination centers like Publix, registration starts at 7 a.m. during the school week and the waiting line to book an appointment can last for hours, extending into the school day when teachers can no longer book an appointment. The Hillsborough County MyVaccine website allows teachers to pre-register, but states that the elderly and health care personnel are still being prioritized before all others.

“The pandemic has ruined this school year. From school events like pep rallies, sports, dances, Grad Bash, theater and band performances, to even simple daily things like lunch and class, it’s hamstrung everything,” SGA sponsor Thomas Dusold said.

As of March 3, Robinson has had 62 COVID-19 cases, of which 19 have been employees. Due to contact tracing and COVID-19 safety procedures, students and teachers alike are routinely sent away from the classroom and back to eLearning for two weeks, disrupting plans.

“It’s removed that human touch. You don’t have those accidental moments,” Jennell Peteranecz, an IB English teacher, said. “I miss those. I don’t have those with [eLearners] the connections that really deepen us and our understanding of one another… that’s gone.”

One Robinson teacher, Sarah Sanford, has spent the 2020-2021 school year on extended leave due to her daughter being part of a high-risk group. Sanford didn’t qualify to teach fully eLearning, and so her original plan was to return to school when the Hillsborough County COVID-19 positivity rate dropped below five percent; the last time the county positivity rate was below five percent was May 31, 2020.

“Honestly, I feel like politics have resulted in a huge loss of life. We have better technology than at any other time in history, and we as a country can’t get organized enough to get this vaccine out in a timely fashion? It’s very frustrating,” Sanford said.

There are six weeks in-between the date of the first dose and the date that the vaccine goes into full-effect. If Biden’s administration succeeds in its goal for all teachers to have received their first dose by the end of March, then teachers will only be protected against the virus for the last three weeks of the school year.