Biden urges states to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers

President Joe Biden walks along the Colonnade Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, to the Oval Office of the White House. | Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz via Flickr Public Domain

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is urging states to prioritize teachers for COVID-19 vaccines, setting a goal of ensuring that every pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educator, school staff member and childcare worker is able to receive at least one shot this month.

At least 34 states, including Michigan, and the District of Columbia have some or all teachers eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, according to tracking data from Education Week.

That tally has been growing in recent weeks, as many students across the country approach the one-year mark for switching to virtual classes due to the pandemic. In Michigan, 97% of schools had an in-person learning option by Monday, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In February, 83% of schools are offering an in-person learning option.

Biden’s latest directive to states is the latest step in his administration’s effort to aid schools in safely reopening their buildings to in-person classes. In a televised statement from the White House on Tuesday, Biden described teachers as “essential workers,” and said that accelerating vaccinations can help assuage anxieties about school reopenings.

“We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker, to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” Biden said.

Each state has set up their own categories for the order in which individuals are eligible to receive the still-limited supplies of COVID-19 shots.

Education secretary nominee says teachers should be prioritized for vaccines

To help achieve the president’s goal of vaccinating teachers and school support staffers more quickly, Biden said federally run vaccination sites at pharmacies across the country will prioritize appointments for teachers and school staff.

“Not every educator will be able to get their appointment in the first week, but our goal is to do everything we can to help every educator receive a shot this month,” Biden said.

Of the states that aren’t yet vaccinating teachers, several have set dates to begin doing so. Data compiled by Bloomberg found nine states were set to begin vaccinating teachers in March, including Wisconsin, which began doing so on Monday; Georgia, which will begin March 8; and Missouri, which will begin March 15.

Five states — Washington, Texas, Montana, Massachusetts, and Indiana — haven’t yet made teachers eligible or announced concrete dates, according to the Bloomberg data.

More than 78 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biden said his administration expects that there will be enough vaccine supply available by the end of May to vaccinate every adult in the United States.

Michigan has administered 2.3 million vaccines so far. The state is expected to receive its largest shipment of more than 400,000 vaccines this week.

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.