WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The controversial topic of COVID-19 vaccines for teachers is expected to take center stage on Wednesday when Palm Beach County School Board members meet for the first time in nearly a month.
Board member Dr. Debra Robinson plans to start a discussion to advocate "to have employees with direct student contact prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, if they wish," according to the school board's agenda.
Currently, teachers in Florida are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, unless they are 65 and older or are deemed to be "extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers."
During a news conference in Longwood on Jan 4., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said there are no plans to add teachers to the vaccine priority list at this time.
"The fact is, just based on the data, the average person under 65 in our workforce has been at less risk than our senior population," DeSantis said. "So we're going where the risk is greatest. We're going where we can have the most impact on saving lives."
WATCH GOVERNOR'S ADDRESS:
The governor added, however, that the next group he's targeting for vaccinations is the workforce, including teachers and other essential workers. However, he admitted it could take weeks or even months before enough vaccine is available for that population.
"I view people that are earning a living and putting food on the table as essential, cause it's essential to their family," DeSantis said. "So we want to make it as widely available to the workforce."
DeSantis said Florida is expecting to receive 50% more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in January compared to December, and that could open up the ability to do mass vaccinations on teachers at schools.
"I think the reason why teachers would be great is because you have them all at the school, you could knock it out very quickly," DeSantis said. "So from an efficiency standpoint, I think it would be great."
GOVERNOR SPEAKS ABOUT TEACHERS:
For weeks, the governor has urged patience with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, saying there simply isn't enough supply to meet the overwhelming demand of residents who want to get inoculated.
"As we get through and then we see how demand goes, if there's vaccine available and the senior demand goes down, it's not gonna happen anytime soon, but maybe weeks in advance, months, then all of a sudden you're looking at, OK, let's get it out there to folks," DeSantis said.
The Palm Beach County School Board is scheduled to hold a closed-door risk management session at 2 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a workshop and special meeting.
The last time the school board met was on Dec. 16, one week before Palm Beach County received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In neighboring Martin County, school board members voted on Dec. 15 to send a formal request to DeSantis, asking that he allow school district employees who have direct contact with students to be considered a priority to receive the vaccine.
A spokesperson for the Martin County School District said they have not received a formal response from the governor’s office yet.