The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last week voted to ask Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration to prioritize school staff when deciding which groups of workers will get COVID-19 vaccinations next.
Vaccinations began earlier this week in Louisiana. Based on federal guidelines, tier 1 hospital workers are first in line for the limited supply now available. Long-term care residents and staff and emergency medical drivers are next.
BESE’s request does not include a timeline. Members are asking state officials to make vaccines available to school and early childhood education workers “as soon as possible.”
State Superintendent Cade Brumley said that group includes about 166,000 people and suggested vaccinations would help keep schools and early childhood centers open.
“Birth through 12th-grade employees cut across every region of the state,” he added. “They cut across every demographic in our state. It’s a really good sample population of the state.”
As of last week, about 65 percent of Louisiana’s students were attending classes in person five days a week, Brumley said. About 20 percent were attending class remotely, while 15 percent were attending schools holding a mix of in-person and remote classes, he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets the immunization schedules based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Prioritizing health care workers and long-term care residents and staff is the first official recommendation, though state leaders have the final say.
Edwards was asked about vaccine prioritization on Dec. 15 during an online meeting of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. Though state officials expect to receive a total of about 79,000 COVID-19 vaccinations this week and next week, going forward, Edwards said they expect to find out on Friday evenings how many vaccines they will get the following week.
Edwards said state officials will consider the advisory committee’s next set of prioritization recommendations. He has said he expects Louisiana to follow ACIP guidelines for the most part, though some adjustments may be made based on the state’s hospital patient population.
“We’re going to be making decisions and communicating with the public going forward what the different priority groups are going to look like,” Edwards said on Dec. 15. “We’re asking people to be patient.”