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Tampa Bay Area School Districts To Begin Vaccinating Older Employees

Some counties are working to vaccinate teachers over 65, but a Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association leader says it should be expanded, as all teachers are at risk.

A growing number of Tampa Bay area school districts are pushing for teachers to be the next priority group to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Until then, some are partnering with local health departments to vaccinate employees 65 and older.

Prior to winter break, Hillsborough County schools Superintendent Addison Davis wrote Gov. Ron DeSantis, urging him to include educators in the next round of vaccinations.

In the meantime, the district is partnering with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County and Tampa General Hospital to vaccinate its employees 65 and older.

DOH-Hillsborough is providing the vaccine, and employees who qualify will be directly contacted by TGH to make an appointment either on Friday, Jan. 22, or Saturday, Jan. 23.

“Rest assured that I will continue to advocate for all PreK-12 educators to be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Davis. “Educators continue to take on critical roles in our community and it is imperative teachers, administrators and school-based support staff are protected. Each time one of our dedicated employees’ contracts COVID-19, it jeopardizes the health of our organization and diminishes the quality of the educational experience for our students. “

Pinellas County schools this week also began providing inoculations to employees 65 and older.

Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Nancy Velardi wants to expand that and says all teachers are at risk of exposure to the virus.

"They must be in a room all day long with other people and in pretty close quarters so they have no choice to isolate," she said.

Velardi says the teacher's union has also written a letter to DeSantis asking him to revise his 'seniors first' policy.

"We have not seen any movement on that and I don't believe the Governor will change his mind so at the very least, this partnership to get the over 65 teachers vaccinated is as good as we can get right now."

The Pasco, Polk, Sarasota and Manatee County school districts also say they are working on plans to vaccinate older staff members.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.