PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — CVS Pharmacy is now listing K-12 teachers, daycare, and preschool workers and staff as eligible to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
This comes just one day after President Joe Biden said he was directing states to prioritize teachers to be vaccinated.
Currently, all appointments in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are booked, but CVS urges those eligible to check back later as more appointments will be added as they become available.
Biden says the country can re-open all schools if the right steps are taken even before employees are vaccinated but say the anxiety parents and teachers are feeling prompted him to issue this challenge to the states.
“Let’s treat in-person learning as the essential service that it is,” Biden said.
Biden said he wants to see enough doses for every educator and school worker to receive the first dose of the vaccine by the end of March. Teachers will be able to sign up directly through participating retail pharmacies, the administration said.
According to Biden, 30 states have already taken steps to prioritize educators, Massachusetts being one of them. Teachers were already next on the state’s list before the new eligibility criteria CVS listed Wednesday morning.
“It really shows respect to our essential workers by keeping them safe,” President of Mass. Teachers Association Merrie Najimy said. “It also shows a respect for our students and their families.”
Rhode Island is not specifically prioritizing teachers in its phased distribution.
“We’re aligning with updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines by making appointments available to pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers in all 17 states where we currently offer COVID-19 vaccines, including in MA and RI,” a CVS spokesperson said.
In addition to the supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, CVS says they will receive more than 200,000 Johnson & Johnson doses this week to be used among all of their pharmacies offering the vaccine.
Additionally, a R.I. Department of Health spokesperson noted thechange by CVS is with their federal vaccine, and the department will make announcements about any changes to eligibility at other locations throughout the state, as usual.
Adults 60-64 along with adults 16-64 with underlying health conditions are next in line in Phase 2 of Rhode Island’s vaccine distribution.
While serving as lieutenant governor, now Gov. Dan McKee publicly disagreed with the Raimondo administration’s vaccine rollout strategy, saying teachers need to be prioritized over others.
“We need to really move up on the list teachers and the support staff in schools,” McKee said in January. “We’re not going to open the economy until we do that, and teachers are not going to feel comfortable by and large until we get them vaccinated.”
The day prior to his comments, the R.I. COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee met to discuss who should get the vaccine next. The panel of mostly doctors largely backed a proposal to prioritize Phase 2 vaccine recipients based on age, underlying health conditions, and where they live.
R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said such a strategy would result in more than 50% of educators getting vaccinated, along with high-risk individuals in every other profession.
McKee later clarified while he wanted to see teachers get moved up the list, older adults with underlying health conditions should go first, and even before teachers in some cases.