Though Connecticut educators are considered essential workers, they are not yet eligible for vaccination against COVID-19.
To address this, the Connecticut Education Association has launched a TV ad featuring Connecticut teachers of the year calling on the state to “vaccinate educators now.”
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that states include teachers in their Phase 1B vaccination distribution. At least 28 states have made educators eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sheena Graham, the 2019 Connecticut Teacher of the Year and a performing arts instructor at Harding High School in Bridgeport, said prioritizing vaccines for educators will help to raise the comfort level in classrooms.
“Imagine the trauma that is being inflicted on or exists in a high school student who is aware and comfortable enough to ask me, ‘Are you as afraid to be around me as I am afraid to be around you?’ This is not a healthy situation on many levels,” Graham told reporters Wednesday.
The teachers union pointed to recent CDC guidelines that indicate people who are fully vaccinated or remain asymptomatic after being exposed to COVID-19 do not have to quarantine.
The CEA said the number one cause of school closures in Connecticut is the need for staff to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. The union said vaccination would help reduce the disruption caused to staff, students and families.
“If returning to school 100% is a priority, vaccinating educators is an unquestionable priority,” said David Bosso, a social studies teacher at Berlin High School and 2012 Connecticut Teacher of the Year. “It would be absolutely devastating to a school community to lose a teacher, staff member or student.”
Health care personnel, long-term care facility residents, medical first responders and individuals 65 and older are currently eligible for vaccination. Frontline essential workers and individuals with underlying medical conditions are expected to receive scheduling information in March.
“Connecticut has been a leader throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we should be leading the way on this important issue, too,” said Meghan Hatch-Geary, an English teacher and 2020 Connecticut Teacher of the Year. “Teachers do heroic work, but we aren’t actual superheroes, which is why we need to prioritize vaccinations for all school staff so that we can do our essential work safely.”
This report was originally published by Connecticut Public. Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.