KNOX Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Earlier this year, Knox County health leaders discovered they had more than 1,000 doses of leftover vaccine after vaccinating all local healthcare workers and first responders.
So they decided to vaccinate local teachers who wanted a COVID-19 vaccine; however, the state hadn’t made teachers eligible at the time.
“They indeed were not happy. But at the same time I felt it was the reasonable thing to do,” said Knox Co. Health Officer, Dr. Alan Stewart. “We did not do it knowing we were not supposed to do it. We thought we had permission to do it.”
Haley Lancaster is an English teacher at Lincoln High School and she is now fully vaccinated. She said when she found out vaccines were being made available to her and her colleagues, she was shocked.
“I wanted to be back in person. I wanted to be back in the classroom and to know that I have that extra layer of protection just makes me feel more confident in that decision,” Lancaster explained.
According to Dr. Stewart, they were able to vaccinate about 200 teachers in just 2 days.
“I do feel that teachers are a group that should be prioritized for vaccination, and I’m glad that we did it. I think our teachers are happy with being vaccinated,” he noted.
However, not all Hoosier educators have had the same opportunity.
Jennifer Smith-Margraf, Vice President of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said there’s no reason they shouldn’t be next in line.
“If you look at all of our surrounding states, Kentucky will be the first to have all of their teachers vaccinated just to our south,” Smith-Margraf began. “I have friends and colleagues who teach in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois who are posting their photos going to get their vaccine and talking about how this is going to get their schools and their students back to normal. That’s not happening in Indiana and that’s tremendously frustrating and it makes us feel very disrespected.”
State Representative Tonya Pffaff sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday urging him to make teachers eligible.
“As of today, 28 other states are doing this. They’ve prioritized teachers in different rollout plans. But they’re vaccinating teachers,” Rep. Pfaff said. “We’re not. That’s a huge problem. Plus nationally we’re talking about reopening our schools.”
She said as a teacher herself, she understands the frustration.
“I see both sides and arguments. I’m telling you this is all across the state. Not just teachers in Vigo County. Teachers all over want to be vaccinated. They want to be able to do what we got in this profession to do and that’s teach and educate the future but we want to be safe,” she concluded.
The next group of people eligible to receive the vaccine are those 60 and older. That was scheduled to start Monday, but has been pushed back due a delay in vaccine shipments.