Palm Beach County teachers over 65 want COVID-19 vaccine priority

Posted at 8:36 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 20:36:33-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Teachers over 65 in several South Florida counties are getting the COVID-19 vaccine, despite no specific language in the governor’s order making them a priority.

So why is this not happening in Palm Beach County?

"I know a lot of teachers over 65 have been trying to get it unsuccessfully," said teacher Steven Silberberg.

Silberberg is over 65, a teacher with the School District of Palm Beach County, and for days has been trying to secure a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through Publix.

"It's just so frustrating sitting there on the computer for over an hour and a half," Silberberg said.

Silberberg got a call back from county health department for an appointment, but many other teachers are still waiting.

"They are having to fight with the general population even though they are not able to isolate or socially distance in a manner that most retirees could," said Justin Katz, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.

Katz said the school district has a total of just over 1,000 employees who are 65 and older.

"There are other counties where they have stuck agreements with the local school districts to ensure that 65 and older educators who are in schools with hundreds or potentially a thousand or two thousand of students a day and coworkers would have access to it," Katz said.

County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay brought up that point to the county health department’s top official.

"Our local Florida department of health director just has a pretty strict interpretation of the governor’s executive orders and doesn’t feel its within her authority to make those decisions," McKinlay said.

And now with supply for first doses going exclusively to Publix, there is more concern that teachers over 65 being asked to work in the classroom will not get priority.

Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy has written to the governor asking him to classify school employees with direct student contact who are 65 and older as essential and receive vaccination priority. But so far, no such order has been issued.