Teachers Respond To COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Senior+citizens+and+teachers+line+up+to+receive+a+vaccine.+Digital+illustration+by+Karly+Hamilton+%2721.

Karly Hamilton

Senior citizens and teachers line up to receive a vaccine. Digital illustration by Karly Hamilton ’21.

Edan Zinn, Acting Co-EIC

Today, K-12 educators and school staff will become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to orders from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. Here, alhough faculty and staff are beginning to search for open appointments to get the shot, many have expressed frustration with the delay and other logistical troubles in the vaccine’s rollout.

Some Massachusetts educators argue that the changes are too little and too late. An NBC Boston article reported on educators in the state’s push for higher vaccine priority.

“With several groups being moved up in priority to get the coronavirus vaccine in Massachusetts, others feel like they are being left behind,” the article states.

On January 25, Baker announced modifications to the Massachusetts vaccine rollout, moving residents 65 and older to higher priority in the state’s multi-phase rollout. Educators in the state, including from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, voiced their resistance to Baker’s efforts to move other demographics ahead of teachers in priority.

“I would like the shot yesterday,” a Salem superintendent said in the NBC article, disappointed by Baker’s decision to give priority to senior citizens.

I just wish there was a way we could get the vaccine simultaneously as those who Baker put in front of us or faster, because we are coming at risk all the time.”

— Tom Nelson, Assistant Athletic Director

Assistant Athletic Director Tom Nelson said that he understands why senior citizens were put ahead in line, although he had hoped the vaccine could have been rolled out at a faster rate.

“COVID-19 has affected elderly in the beginning of the pandemic so much more adversely than anyone else,” Nelson said. “I thought it was very important since that’s where most of our deaths have come from that we take care of those first, and then start with first responders and educators.”

Nelson lives with his 78-year-old mother-in-law, who he fears he could expose to the virus before they are fully vaccinated.

“It’s scary. We’re at risk every day, coming here, and in my case, coaching basketball outside of School,” Nelson said. “I just wish there was a way we could get the vaccine simultaneously as those who Baker put in front of us or faster, because we are coming at risk all the time.”

Spanish Teacher Mirna Goldberger, who has been teaching remotely since the beginning of the year, is also looking forward to the vaccine.

“The current phasing includes teachers in group three of Phase 2, which was supposedly happening between February and March, but is now postponed indefinitely due to bad logistics, pushing the K-12 educators further down the wait line, increasing their anxiety of acquiring COVID-19,” Goldberger said.

The lagging vaccine rollout is negatively affecting teachers mental health, according to Goldberger.

“As it is, the [State’s] current timeline of the vaccines has placed a great degree of stress of teachers who teach in-person and who have to deal with the disinformation as to when they will receive the two dosages to better mitigate potential exposure,” Goldberger said.

Dr. Derrick Rossi.

To help tackle disinformation, earlier today, Moderna Co-Founder Dr. Derrick Rossi P ’26, ’28 spoke about the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, how the mRNA vaccine works, and why it is important for everyone to get vaccinated.

“Even the mRNA technology that went into the Moderna [vaccine] that was developed in my lab at Harvard Medical School in 2008-2009, 12 years ago been in clinical development to best optimize it to respond to a threat,’ Rossi said. “There’s a lot of science that goes in before we go to patients, that’s for sure.”

The COVD Response Team (CRT) has also been busy, informing teachers about how to get a vaccination appointment.

“I’ve been telling teachers to get a vaccine as soon as they can, no matter the type,” Escobar said. “Teachers should go to the new pre-registration site, which launches tomorrow. The State will reach out to you about when and where you can get vaccinated. Teachers have experienced a terrible frenzy about how to get vaccines, and vaccine shaming, and we have to stop that. Nobody wants to sit at a computer all day long, hitting refresh. This will relieve a lot of the pressure.”

Escobar said that beginning later this month, the State will also reserve days for teachers to get vaccinated at special sites. Meanwhile, for at least the remainder of the year, the School is committed to providing free weekly COVID-19 testing for all adults and students in the community. The School is also keeping up with its enhanced cleaning and social distancing protocols, Escobor said. Surgical masks also remain freely available to anyone on campus, and the CRT is continuing with its weekly updates.

Even with Massachusetts getting its resupply today from the federal government, the 40,000 new vaccination appointments filled up in just hours. With supply struggling to meet the high demand, Upper School English teacher Kenley Smith fears that some are taking advantage of a Massachusetts policy which allows younger adults who drive those 75 and older to also get vaccinated.

“I’m fine waiting for my turn, I’m just not fine with people jumping the line,” Smith said.

Editors’ note: This story was updated at 4:00 p.m. to include insight from Dr. Derrick Rossi, who addressed the community earlier today.