Mecklenburg Health Department: Teachers Scheduled COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments Before Eligible
Mecklenburg County’s health department says a “large number” of teachers signed up to get COVID-19 vaccines before they were eligible, forcing the county to reschedule their appointments or place them on a waitlist.
“We did have a large number of educators who signed up for appointments prior to Feb. 24 despite instructions about when eligibility began,” Dr. Meg Sullivan, the county’s medical director, said at a press conference on Monday.
Sullivan said she did not know how many school personnel signed up for early appointments and could not provide an estimate. She said the county is working with those individuals to “place them on a waiting list or reschedule their appointments.” Roughly 7,000 people total are on the county’s waitlist for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County’s public health director, said on Monday.
Prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodial and child care center employees in North Carolina are not eligible for vaccine appointments until Feb. 24 under a plan Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week.
Mecklenburg County said the canceled appointment slots will be opened to those currently eligible. North Carolina is currently vaccinating people in the first two groups of its five-group vaccine plan: health care workers, people ages 65 and older and those who live or work in long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
“We encourage Group 1 and Group 2 individuals to reach out to us,” Sullivan said.
The plan announced last week puts school personnel ahead of other essential workers in Group 3 like grocery store employees, police officers, farmworkers and restaurant employees. Those people will have to wait until March 10, when the state plans to make vaccines available to additional essential workers.
At a press conference announcing the plan, Cooper did not specify why school employees were given priority, though he did praise them for “going above and beyond” during the pandemic. He also said that starting with a smaller number of frontline essential workers “helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently.” State officials estimated the first segment of Group 3 includes about 240,000 people.
Many advocates have urged against in-person learning until school personnel are vaccinated. But Cooper has repeatedly said teachers can safely return to the classroom without getting vaccinated “as long as safety and health protocols are followed.”