Florida has not prioritized teachers for COVID vaccines, but 27 other states have

Teacher with students in elementary school science class. Credit: Getty Images

As of Thursday, over half of U.S. states allow some or all teachers to be eligible for COVID vaccines, according to data from Education Week. But not Florida.

Despite brick-and-mortar schools being ordered to open since August of 2020, Florida’s educators are not in line for shots.

Data from Education Week, as of Thursday, reports that in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, teachers are eligible to receive the COVID vaccines.

Another five states have prioritized teachers based on location within the state, where some areas are further along in their vaccination plans. These states are California, Nevada, Wyoming, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. West Virginia has prioritized teachers age 50 and over in their current COVID vaccination plans.

In total, the 27 states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico, are eligible for COVID vaccinations.

Florida is in the minority, as one of 23 states that have not yet prioritized teachers.

The first comment on Education Week appears to be from a frustrated Floridian.

“It’s appalling that in Florida, where there are thousands of COVID-19 cases, especially in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, that teachers and school staff are not eligible for vaccinations.” The comment reads. “The state is encouraging schools to reopen, but not providing protections for their teachers and others who have interactions with students on a daily basis.”

While many Florida school districts have been open since August for in-person instruction, some schools didn’t go into brick-and-mortar buildings until mid-October.

The conversations about the safety of students and educators in brick-and-mortar classrooms during a pandemic is still hotly debated.

Currently, some students are in physical classrooms, while others remain at home learning online, and some participate in a hybrid model of the two.

Now, Florida schools are continuing their second semester in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state is expanding vaccine locations to more parts of Florida.

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, thinks that giving teachers access to the COVID vaccine is a “no-brainer.”

“It continues to confound me that Gov. DeSantis has emphasized repeatedly that having schools open and functioning is a top priority, but will not make teachers and school support staff eligible for the COVID vaccines,” Spar said in a written statement to the Phoenix.

He continues: “Dozens of states allow all teachers to get vaccinated, but not Florida. Just think of the illness and disruption that educators and students would be spared if school employees were allowed to get the vaccines. The CDC said just this week that people who have received both shots do not have to be quarantined — even if teachers and staff are exposed, they can potentially keep working with kids.”

Spar is referring to updated CDC guidelines released Wednesday, which states: “Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.”

But Florida teachers are still not yet prioritized. Many are waiting for the vaccine, while others are hesitant.

Florida is only one of four states that have ordered their school districts to offer brick-and-mortar instruction 5-days a week, according to Education Week. The other states are Texas, Arkansas, and Iowa — the latter two of which offer COVID vaccines to their teachers.

However, just because teachers are not yet prioritized for COVID vaccines in Florida, does not mean that some teachers are not getting them.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is focusing vaccination priority to Florida’s aged 65 and up population, frontline-healthcare workers, and some people under 65 who have significant health risks.

Some of Florida’s educators and staff do fall into those categories.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.