Texas teachers, child care workers now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

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Texas teachers are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, health officials announced Wednesday.

Effective immediately, all Texas vaccine providers should include all school staff, Head Start program staff and child care staff in their vaccine administration programs, according to a notice the Texas Department of State Health Services sent to providers.

Texas received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday night directing it to expand eligibility, according to a DSHS news release.

Those eligible are “those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers,” according to the federal directive.

Denton County Public Health announced Wednesday night that the county’s Vaccine Interest Portal waitlist is now updated to allow school and childcare personnel to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are so excited to include school and childcare personnel on our waitlist for the vaccine,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads. “We continue to work on vaccinating individuals on our waitlist as quickly as possible.”

State health officials said earlier this week that they expected to finish vaccinating older and most vulnerable Texans in the next few weeks and broaden eligibility to include more Texans by the end of the month.

That new group was expected to include teachers before Wednesday’s announcement, but officials have not said who else would be in that new “1C” group.

The 1A and 1B priority groups, which health officials have said comprise more than 8 million people, included front-line health care workers, people 65 and older, and those 16 or older with medical vulnerabilities.

The early inclusion of teachers comes as vaccine supplies ramp up and 2 million people, or 6.8% of Texas’ population, have been fully vaccinated with both doses of the two-shot regimens.

Administration of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose, began in Texas this week, officials said.

As of March 1, 5.7 million doses had been administered, with providers across the state administering an average of 123,469 vaccine doses each day in the last week. None of the vaccines are approved for children under age 16, who make up about 23% of the population.

Karen Brooks Harper contributed to this report. This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/03/03/texas-teachers-child-care-coronavirus-vaccine/. Denton County-specific information was added by CTG staff.

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