Oklahoma teachers can breathe a sigh of relief from under their masks: educators and school staff are finally eligible to receive the Covid19 vaccine. The phase two priority group, which includes teachers and school staff of any age, can begin making appointments next week.
The Oklahoma state Department of Health estimates that nearly 90,000 Oklahoma teachers and school staff will receive the two-dose vaccine series. Additionally, Oklahoma citizens under age 65 who have comorbidities can also begin making appointments next week.
The vaccine should make a huge difference in mitigating the spread of Covid19 in schools and across school districts in Oklahoma. At least two Tulsa Public Schools staff professionals died in December 2020 after being diagnosed with Covid19. A representative for Tulsa Public Schools was quick to note the actual causes of the deaths were not disclosed. TPS, the second largest district in Oklahoma, has over 7000 employees and over 30,000 students.
Across the state, several teachers and school support staff have died from Covid or Covid-related complications. In December, an elementary school teacher in Midwest City, Oklahoma, died from Covid-related complications. A school support staff professional in Mustang, OK, also died from Covid19. And a middle school teacher from Will Rogers in Miami passed away from complications of the virus just after Christmas.
While teachers were initially slated for phase three of the Covid vaccine eligibility, Oklahoma public health officials recently moved educators and school support staff to phase two. Teachers and parents hope the priority change means students can safely return to in-person learning environments as quickly as possible. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has repeatedly stated that getting kids back to school is a priority for the state.
Sean Byrne, a counselor in Enid, Oklahoma, works with students and families. He said he believes that prioritizing teachers for the vaccine is what is needed to help students during this time. “Ensuring teachers get the vaccine lets students know they are safe and cared for, and that everything is being done to support them through this crisis.”
To schedule your Covid19 vaccine appointment, use the online portal at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov/ or call 2-1-1