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Vermont teachers petition for COVID vaccine

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 10:18 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2021 at 7:45 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Thousands of Vermont teachers and staff want the COVID vaccine now, instead of waiting until their age groups become eligible. But with vaccine doses already in short supply, health officials don’t appear likely to budge.

A petition created by a Vermont teacher asks the state to “prioritize the COVID-19 vaccination for teachers and school staff after Group 1A.” But Vermont health officials say they stand by their decision to vaccinate people by age after health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff.

“I understand why teachers are concerned. It can feel scary to have to interact with a lot of people, and that is a really natural feeling. And that’s why in public health we really look to the data and the data tells a story that we have a relatively low-risk but really important workforce,” said Vt. Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan.

The state says surveillance testing among teachers shows 37 positive cases out of 20,000 teachers tested. Not all teachers and staff are required to take part in surveillance testing.

“I haven’t heard any of our teachers talk about the petition and as far as I understand, everybody is excited to get the vaccine,” said Rutland City Public Schools Superintendent Bill Olsen.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had just over 4,000 signatures, or about 14% of teachers and staff at public and independent Vermont schools.

One person we spoke with said they didn’t think teachers needed to be vaccinated right now, while they are still teaching virtually, but that once they return to full in-person model, then maybe they should re-evaluate vaccinations.

Amanda Bapp is not a teacher but says the state should vaccinate teachers next. “They should, yes. We are putting our kids in school and keep everyone safe and protect our children,” she said.

“There isn’t a lot of the spread of the virus that we’ve seen, but you want to make sure you’re trying to keep schools open and make sure that staff is protected,” Olsen said.

Governor Phil Scott says his primary mission is to save lives and that means prioritizing older Vermonters no matter where they work.

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