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Vaccinate NEPA: Local educators react to vaccine prioritization

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Pennsylvania teachers are getting priority to receive the newest COVID-19 vaccine. Governor Wolf announced Wednesday morning that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be given to Pennsylvania teachers.

This rollout is going to start with elementary school teachers, bus drivers and other staff. Educators in our area can expect to be vaccinated as early as next week.

Vaccinating teachers is a critical step to get students back into the classroom safely.

“With Johnson & Johnson it’s a one dose vaccine, this actually is an advantage. We can do this more quickly than we can with a two-dose vaccine,” said Governor Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania will receive more than 94,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, with another 30,000 doses from a federal program.

That means more than 120,000 vaccines will get into the arms of Pennsylvania educators in the next couple weeks. Governor Wolf says there are about 200,000 teachers and staff in the state.

“Public and private. That’s everybody, teachers, bus drivers, staff, cafeteria staff, janitors.”

So how will it work locally?

“Our special education teachers and our elementary teachers are going to be prioritized first. As quickly as next week,” said Kevin Booth, the superintendent for the Pittston Area School District.

That’s about 155 doses for those qualified in the Pittston Area School District. Vaccine sites will be determined by the intermediate unit in each region and administered by the Pennsylvania National Guard and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare. This is all voluntary. 

“We can’t mandate that the people go get the vaccine,” Booth said.

The Hazleton Area School District says this is welcoming news as they also gear up to return to the classroom this spring.

“Our staff is slated for a March 15, 2021 return and our students are scheduled for April 12, 2021. Having the vaccines available to our district staff will certainly assist in the safe return of everyone,” the district said in a statement. 

Pennsylvania will receive more doses in the weeks to come. Wolf’s goal is to vaccinate these teachers quickly, by the end of March. The task force also said today they are working to have vaccines available for all adult Pennsylvanians by May.

The vaccination of educators is separate from the ongoing Phase 1A vaccine rollout. The state is offering the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to people in that group.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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