Florida teachers disappointed with governor’s vaccine priority list

Governor Ron DeSantis’ decision to singularly prioritize seniors over the age of 70 isn’t sitting well among some essential workers who’d hoped to be included in the next phase of vaccinations. 

Some Florida teachers say they’re worried heading into the spring semester: more students are expected to return to in-person learning while teachers will have to wait longer than they’d hoped to get a vaccine thanks to DeSantis’ new guidelines, 

"On one hand, he’s saying fling open the school doors and on the other, he’s not providing adequate safety measures," said Orange County Classroom Teachers Association president Wendy Doromal. "That means those rooms that are small and already don’t have space and adequate social distancing will be more crowded. So, we were looking forward to teachers getting a vaccine, especially those with ADA accommodations and their health is at risk or a family member’s health is at risk."

Priority in the second vaccine round has been a hotly debated topic among disease experts. Those creating the recommendations are having to weigh the potential benefits and consequences of vaccinating those most at risk of a severe outcome with prioritizing those most at-risk of becoming infected and spreading the virus. 

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"If you’re a teacher, you’re there every day. Then you go home to your family, you have children in the public schools; they go out and come back in, interact with their own family, it’s a spider’s web of connections if you will," said Volusia Educators Association president Elizabeth Albert. 

One week ago, the Florida Education Association sent a letter to = DeSantis urging him to include teachers in Phase 2 of Florida’s vaccine rollout. 

On Tuesday, however, when the governor laid out his plan he said he wanted to vaccinate the more than three million seniors over the age of 70 before moving on to vaccinate younger, healthier workers. 

"The vaccines are going to be targeted where the risk is going to be the greatest: that’s our elderly population," DeSantis said. "We are not going to put young healthy workers a head of our elderly vulnerable population."

The governor’s Phase 2 priority policy is a departure from the CDC recommendation that Phase 2 include essential workers and seniors over 75 years old. 

According to Gov. DeSantis, Florida is still likely six to eight weeks away from the start of Phase 2 vaccinations. The state continues to make its way through hospitals and nursing homes to vaccinate those most at-risk first.