PSTA Statement on COVID-19 Vaccine Access

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From the Palmetto State Teachers Association:

This morning, Governor McMaster and DHEC announced that individuals age 65 and older will now have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina. Palmetto State Teachers Association believes this is an important action for protecting the most vulnerable citizens of our state, and we are encouraged that the supply of the vaccine has grown enough to make this action possible. However, as the vaccine supply grows, PSTA will continue to advocate for the Governor to grant priority access to the vaccine to the educators of our state. As we noted in a January 22 joint letter with The SCEA to the Governor, it is imperative for South Carolina educators to have vaccine access in order for all schools to offer the five day, face-to-face instructional model that the Governor has pushed for since last summer.

Contrary to a common perception, vaccine access for educators is not important because it can relieve the “fears” of educators. A sense of fear or anxiety is not unique to educators during a pandemic. Instead, the reason educators must have priority access to the vaccine is to ensure our schools can maintain sufficient staffing levels to provide students with the level of safety and instruction they deserve. Currently, many schools around the state are struggling to maintain in-person learning options due to insufficient staffing resulting from the cumulative effect of staff on medical leave, staff quarantining due to public health guidance, and the growing teacher and substitute teacher shortage crisis in our state. As a result, schools are often unable to secure a qualified individual to deliver instruction in every class, resulting in students either being added to another classroom or students from multiple classes being “instructed” jointly in a cafeteria or auditorium. Students in these environments are not receiving the level of instruction they need or the level of social distancing required by public health guidelines.

For this reason, PSTA continues to support the push by Superintendent Spearman to provide educators with priority access to vaccination. Our association appreciates the growing number of members of the General Assembly that support this position, and we continue to ask the Governor to employ this critically important tool for ensuring the safe and effective operation of our schools.

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