Local lawmakers, doctors, education leaders and others on Thursday called on Gov. Gavin Newsom and public health officials to put teachers third in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available.
Only health care workers and nursing home residents would be ahead of teachers and school staff, the group said.
The group, convened virtually by San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, said students have been impacted by the pandemic academically and their overall well-being has been affected.
“Schools have been closed for nearly 9 months now, and yet state officials have failed to prioritize enough resources to support safe school reopening,” Ronen said in a statement.
State health officials have recommended that health care workers and residents of nursing homes get the vaccine first, but have not recommended who next should get the vaccine.
“Providing vaccines to all school site personnel, including teachers, paraeducators, librarians, counselors, nurses, janitors, and other school support staff, will be critical in our ability to safely reopen schools,” Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, said in a statement.
Also, important to preventing outbreaks in schools and protecting students, educators and families are testing, contact tracing, ventilation, personal protective equipment and sanitation practices, Solomon said.
Dr. Amy Beck, a pediatrician and San Francisco public school parent, said school closures are really a crisis for California school children.
“Children are suffering,” she said.
Schools provide not only learning but healthy meals and emotional and mental health support, among other things for students, Beck said. She added, “Current data and science do not indicate that all school staff need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely.”
“When public health guidelines are stringently followed, schools have proven to be safe environments for children and adults. However, just as schools are essential for children, school personnel are essential workers who should be prioritized for vaccination,” she said.
Ronen is not alone among her peers in asking that teachers and school staff receive priority when it comes to getting the vaccine.
She and others across the state have introduced resolutions before their respective bodies calling on Newsom and public health officials to make teachers a priority.
Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Bas is one of those lawmakers. Her resolution will be heard at the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
She said Oakland has focused on closing the digital divide and now must focus on reopening schools safely.
Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis has also introduced a resolution before her board.
Other jurisdictions that have done so include Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Sacramento, and Culver City.
Students’ immediate success was not the only concern for participants of the meeting Thursday. Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said the harm done now may have long-term consequences for the academic and professional success of current students.
Ronen said, “If we don’t act now, these indefinite school closures will have a lasting impact on our students’ learning and development, further widening racial achievement gaps.”
“I hope Gov. Newsom is listening to us,” she said.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the issue.