Starting Monday, March 1, part two of phase 1B will begin allowing faculty and staff in education and other groups to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Other education and child care employees will be eligible including Boys and Girls Club staff, YMCA staff and others who have direct contact with students.
But, because vaccine supply is still lagging, state health leaders anticipate some teachers may not get vaccinated until April or May.
“We’re going to get you a vaccine,” said Wisconsin Deputy Health Secretary, Julie Willems Van Dijk. “It could take six weeks, but we will get all teachers vaccinated. That’s relatively a short time to wait, compared to the length of this pandemic. We want to protect you and we appreciate everything you are doing to educate our children.”
In recent weeks, the state’s allocation of vaccine from the federal government has increased and is expected to further increase in the next month.
So far, Wisconsin has vaccinated 45 percent of residents 65 and older, who still have priority of available vaccines.
“We already know eligibility does not equal availability,” said Marlaina Jackson, the City of Milwaukee Interim Commissioner of Health. “For teachers, it’s still going to take time, but we will get to everyone.”
In Milwaukee, teachers will be able to go to the Wisconsin Center for their shots. They can register/schedule online at milwaukee.gov/covidvax starting March 1st.
“Once you register, you need to provide your place of employment, and when you arrive at the Wisconsin Center, you have to show identification showing the school you work at,” Jackson said.
Where teachers get vaccinated will vary by community. Some areas could pair school with healthcare providers or pharmacies. Thursday Feb. 25th was the deadline for every local health department to submit a plan to the state on how they will vaccinate teachers.
In Waukesha County, teachers will be able to get vaccinated a the Waukesha County Expo Center.
Waukesha County Executive, Paul Farrow, sent a letter to state health leaders, asking them to prioritize teachers who are already doing in-person instruction. All Waukesha County schools have been in-person since August.
“We feel the individuals who have stepped-up to step into the classroom and provide education to kids would take priority over people sitting in their living rooms teaching on a screen,” Farrow said.
“We did receive Mr. Farrow’s letter,” said Deputy Secretary Van Dijk. “I’ve also received letter sand communication from people saying teachers who haven’t been in schools should get vaccinated first before they return to the classroom.”
Van Dijk confirming the state will not be prioritizing vaccinations based on in-person versus virtual learning.
Instead, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services will give each of the state’s 425 school districts a ranking.
“That ranking will be based on the percentage of students in the district who get free and reduced lunches, and the percentage of students who are students of color,” Van Dijk said. “Teachers in those districts will be vaccinated first. We know families in districts with more students of color and more students who get free and reduced lunch, have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic, and so we feel it’s important we get vaccines to their school districts early on.”
Farrow, among the critics not happy with the state’s decisions when it comes to distributing vaccines.
“When the state comes in this week and says we have a whole new level of bureaucracy we want to put on this, it caught everybody off guard.” Farrow said.
Teachers we spoke with say they are following all of this closely, and waiting from word from their own districts, so they can get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Other included groups, besides teachers, included in part two of phase 1B:
- Individuals enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs
- 911 operators
- Public transit drivers and employees
- Food supply chain workers including employees at grocery stores and farm employees
- Non-front line health care essential personnel
- Residents of congregate living settings including inmates
According to DHS, if supply is constrained, vaccinating entities can decide on sub-prioritization for individuals at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Risks to be considered for sup-prioritization include medical conditions and demographics.
For more information about part two of phase 1B in Wisconsin, visit here.