Members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) are asking the state to grant immediate access to COVID-19 vaccines under Phase 1B for teachers and other school staff who wish to be immunized. ATPE has worked closely with the SBOE to advocate for educators who want to be immunized to receive priority access under the current phase and continues to support the board’s efforts to provide immediate access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Chair Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) was joined by 13 other SBOE members in sending a letter to the Texas Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) late Monday seeking the change. The 17-member panel is overseen by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and consists of legislators, bureaucrats, and medical professionals tasked with deciding how vaccines will be made available.
In the February 8 letter, Dr. Ellis emphasized the board’s desire to highlight the challenges schools are facing, explaining that “the pandemic has placed tremendous and sustained stress on efforts to staff classrooms – efforts which have been exacerbated by quarantines necessitated by COVID-19 exposures and a shortage of available full-time teachers and substitutes.”
“Every one of us strongly believes the panel should consider offering immunization to all teachers and school staff in order to safeguard our academic recovery while preventing further, uncontrolled outbreaks,” wrote Ellis.
The letter from SBOE members stressed the importance of a strong academic recovery as a key component of the state’s overall recovery, and it concluded on an optimistic note citing the possible approval of additional vaccines.
Only one member declined to join the rest of the board in signing the letter. Will Hickman (R-Houston) joined the board in January after voters in SBOE District 6 elected the Houston lawyer to replace retiring board Chair Donna Bahorich.
ATPE member and newly elected member of the board Audrey Young (R-Nacogdoches) was among those who signed onto the letter, along with board member and past ATPE State President Sue Melton-Malone (R-Robinson).
ATPE thanks the SBOE members for making this recommendation to state health officials.
This article originally appeared in ATPE’s advocacy blog, TeachtheVote.org, at https://teachthevote.atpe.org/Our-Blog/Latest-Posts/SBOE-members-seek-immediate-vaccine-access-for-sch