January 26, 2021

Educators prioritized in next vaccination phase

Educators prioritized in next vaccination phase Featured Image
Small black boy wearing face mask while making video call over a computer and learning at home during coronavirus pandemic.

Educators will be prioritized in the next phase of vaccinations in Wisconsin.

The next phase of vaccine recipients is expected to begin March 1, prioritizing educators and childcare employees, followed by public-facing essential workers and others. There are about 600,000 Wisconsinites in the coming phase, which is just under the number in the first phase currently underway.

“If the vaccine allocation increases, we will move that date up,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, “but if there is a decrease, that could push it back.”

WEAC had pushed for educators to be included in the next phase, and more than 600 educators submitted personal testimony to a committee that recommended our position. Willems Van Dijk said the DHS decided to implement the committee’s recommendations after weighing exposure and other risk factors that educator face.

The announcement came at the same time the Wisconsin Legislature met on a resolution by Republican leaders to overturn Governor Tony Evers’ mask mandate.

“It’s ridiculous that state Republican leaders refused to meet since last spring to address the pandemic and, when they finally do, one of their first orders of business is to do the one thing experts agree goes against all science and common sense,” said WEAC President Ron Martin.

“This is no time to remove a mask mandate in our state,” Willems Van Dijk said.

Willems Van Dijk said it’s critical that measures continue to bring down the spread at the same time vaccinations ramp up. “It isn’t a question of one or the other, it’s both,” she said.

The DHS remarks come as several school districts are pressuring students and educators to return to in-person schooling even in places with extremely high levels of positive cases.

“Every community is different, and we are urging parents and local school leaders to work with educators to make the best decisions about in-person schooling,” Martin said. “In places where there are still high rates of positive COVID cases, and where appropriate mitigation measures are not in place, the lives of students and staff absolutely should not be put in jeopardy.”

“Almost 6,000 people have already died in Wisconsin from the virus, including educators and their family members,” Martin said. “Our hearts are with every single family who have lost loved ones to the virus. There’s nothing educators want more than to be with our students in-person, but only if we can keep them and our own families safe.”

“COVID 19 is still very prevalent in our state,” Willems Van Dijk said, noting the total confirmed cases on January 26 was 535,218 people and Wisconsin has seen 5,733 deaths. “This is still far, far too high,” she said, urging Wisconsites to recommit to efforts to stop the spread, at the same time the Senate met to vote on a resolution to undo the governor’s mask mandate.

Wisconsin’s first phase of vaccination included 700,000 people including health care professionals and senior citizens 65 and older. The DHS estimated the March 1 start date based on the current supply of vaccinations. “We will not be done with the first phase at that time, but far enough along that it would likely – assuming a steady vaccine supply – it would be reasonable to add others into the group,” Willems Van Dijk said.

“We know different parts of the groups will finish at different times,” she said. “We want to be advancing these vaccinations in a way that keeps everyone moving forward as we move along.”