MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - An advocacy group says school workers are continuing to be left in the dark about the vaccination process.
This comes after the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control held a media briefing providing no concrete updates about how teachers would get the vaccine.
South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said teachers are essential workers who deserve to know how and when they’ll get the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.
“We really need to accelerate the plan,” East said.
Although teachers were moved up to Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout, East said it’s not enough. Two weeks after that announcement, teachers still have no idea when and how they’ll receive the vaccine.
East said she’s heard from some teachers who’ve expressed concerns about not receiving the vaccine soon. Their concerns come after hearing about a school worker dying from COVID-19 complications this week.
Because teachers and staff members don’t have enough information about how an exact COVID-19 transmission occurs, East said school leaders need to do more to protect their essential workers, especially with many of them teaching in face-to-face learning environments.
“The superintendents I’ve talked to are frustrated as well because they want to rollout in their districts,” East said. “They want to say ‘OK, we’re going to get the teachers in my district vaccinated.’ They’re even partnering with healthcare facilities in their areas that [are also saying] ‘We’re on board too; let’s do this.’ But it’s not happening yet.”
DHEC’s interim public health director, Dr. Brannon Traxler, said Wednesday the state is facing a shortage of the vaccine. She later detailed new guidelines outlining how hospitals could help speed up the rollout process to ensure Phase 1A workers received their dosages.
East said the vaccine shortage doesn’t explain why school leaders have limited to no details about how they’ll get vaccinated. She noted for weeks, her department has reached out to DHEC for clarification, stating no one has provided any specific or concrete details about the process.
“We’ve [been] asking [for information],” East said. “The South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman sent a letter to the governor, we have sent letters, teachers are sending letters. Just give us the plan. The details of the plan, not ‘You’re in group 1B’ hold on it’s coming.’”
East says some school leaders are deeply worried about not receiving the vaccine until the end of the school year, or later.
“I talked to one leader in a school district [and based on the rollout he’s estimated] the teachers [in his district] were looking at May,” East said.
She said S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster can do more to ensure teachers are informed about the plans.
“Gov. McMaster, I love the things you said about ‘Let’s get vaccinated, lets get back to work,’” East said. “Lead. Step up and lead us to the vaccination. If you’re saying you want to get us vaccinated, than make that happen.”
Some lawmakers feel teachers need to be prioritized in Phase 1B to ensure they receive the vaccine quickly.
Last week, The South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee recommended that Phase 1B not be sub-prioritized. Thursday morning, some South Carolina lawmakers pushed for that, in favor of DHEC considering teachers being prioritized in Phase 1B.
“Are we saying that we could prioritize within the group?” asked S.C. Rep. Chris Wooten.
A DHEC representative responded ‘Yes.’
Wooten then asked, “So if there was a push to prioritize teachers within the group that could possibly be done?”
DHEC representative said, ‘Yes, there’s flexibility with regard to that.’
The state Department of Education confirmed with WMBF News they’ve not yet received updates from DHEC about how the vaccine will be provided to school workers.