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Teachers and school staff cleared to get COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 4:57 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 10:58:58-05

This article was written by Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News.

Idaho’s teachers and school staff serving students in grades pre-K through 12th are cleared to start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Brad Little and public health officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

After 10 months of constant disruptions in education, the expanding vaccine rollout represents a light at the end of the tunnel, Little said.

“We will prioritize teachers, school staff, first responders and some frontline workers between Jan. 13 and Jan. 31 before making doses available to the 65 and up population starting Feb. 1,” Little said during a livestreamed address Tuesday.

“The health of our teachers is paramount to ensuring students can learn in the classroom where they deserve to be,” he added.

With schools reopening this week following Christmas break, the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Idaho’s schools eclipsed the 5,000 case mark with 243 new cases this week.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch added a few more details moments after Little spoke. She said the vaccine would be available for teachers and school staff “essentially immediately.”

“The governor has made his sentiments known repeatedly that teachers are at the top of his priority list, making sure we can get teachers taken care of so we can get kids back in school,” Shaw-Tulloch said.

There are 247 enrolled vaccine providers in Idaho, health officials said. Many people will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine from the same places they get a seasonal flu shot — their pharmacy, doctor’s office, hospital, health district office or, in some cases, their employer, Little said.

Anyone with questions about local vaccine providers should contact their local public health district office or doctor’s office.

Idaho has been receiving shipments of two types of vaccine. By the end of the week, the state will have received 84,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 71,175 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, for a total of 155,175 total doses, Shaw-Tulloch said. Two doses, spaced about three weeks apart, are administered to protect against COVID-19.

As of Tuesday morning, the state was reporting that 27,476 Idahoans have received only one dose of a vaccine and 5,692 people have received both doses.

Although there is a lag between the number of doses on hand and the number administered, state officials said the vaccine rollout is ramping up.

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said the number of vaccines administered in Idaho increased by 67 percent over the previous week as providers ramp up.

Tuesday’s announcement means teachers and school staff find themselves at the front of the line about two weeks earlier than anticipated. Last week, state health officials estimated teachers would be up for shots in February.

Obtaining the vaccine in Idaho will be free for the public, Little has said. It will be covered by insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or the government for those who don’t have insurance or another program to cover the shots.