CLARK COUNTY, Ind. (WAVE) - Indiana teachers initially thought they’d be part of the next wave of Hoosiers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Then last week, the state rolled out a new priority list that left teachers in limbo.
Mark Felix, associate dean of Charlestown Middle School has felt the stress of being an educator during a pandemic. His district, Greater Clark County Schools has made an effort to safely teach in person throughout the pandemic.
“It’s hard,” Felix said. “You have to worry about all the surfaces, you have to worry about social distancing, you have to worry about what the kids have been doing on the weekends and the holidays, then they come back and bring it in. You have to worry about whether your older, vulnerable teachers are going to get sick; you have to worry about whether or not someone might die at some point.”
“We should be next in line, right after the essential healthcare workers and the elderly, we should be next in line,” Felix said. “If not, it’s a direct slap in the face, because we’ve been asked to put ourselves in harm’s way all year.”
Originally, Indiana included teachers in its second phase of the vaccine rollout. Last week, officials announced they would prioritize the most vulnerable population first, the elderly.
“This plan of making vaccine available next to populations 80 and older, then 70 and older, then 60 or older is the right approach because it targets the population most likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 or die,” Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department said.
However, a teacher for the South Harrison Community School Corporation, who asked to remain anonymous, told WAVE 3 News that while she understands the elderly have the highest risk, she believes teachers should take priority.
“Older people in the 70- and 80-year-old range can stay home,” she said. “We can’t stay home. My district has been in person, face-to-face, full student body the whole school year. We’ve not closed down at all. Finding out that we weren’t a priority on getting the vaccine was like a kick in the teeth.”
The anonymous educator told WAVE 3 News teaching in-person during the pandemic has been “psychologically exhausting” and stressful. Throughout the school year, her district has had dozens of outbreaks, and several teachers have been hospitalized with the virus.
Indiana state officials have not announced which groups will gain access to the vaccine after people 60 and older have received their shots.