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Randi Kreiss

Vaccine for teachers would give us a shot in the arm

Posted

We need to let teachers play through the vaccine line.

Single parents should be prioritized as well. We have so many people who desperately need the Covid-19 vaccination that deciding who goes first is agonizing. Those decisions need to be revisited as time goes by.

The rollout has been disorganized and flawed. We all know people who jumped the line, who used money or connections to get a vaccination for themselves or family. Let’s just agree that will happen in any bureaucratic enterprise. Let’s also agree it made good sense to inoculate the over-65 group first, along with health care workers and other first responders. Note the past tense.

It made sense, but I changed my mind about the over-65 folks, my group. We can wait another month or so, until teachers and all school personnel are vaccinated, so that kids can get back to school. We shouldn’t have to ponder this devilish choice, but we do.

There isn’t enough vaccine, and the delivery systems are complex. People in every category are struggling to get their first doses. Teachers don’t want to go back into the classroom without protection, and that makes sense. According to Education Week, “Exactly where educators as a group fall within phased vaccination plans — and the speed with which those phases are happening — varies greatly from state to state.”

I observe the lives of my own grandkids, 11 to 18, in different schools in different states, and I know that despite the well-intentioned efforts to get them schooled while keeping them safe, they will be the group that suffers most from this prolonged isolation and lack of stimulation. They’re not learning as they should, and that’s their primary job in their young lives. They’re not socializing, and that is critical to their development into well-adjusted adults.

The children are our future teachers and health care workers and public officials and diplomats and astronauts. My grandkids are caught in the usual cycle of hybrid school, some days in the building, most days at home on Zoom. It’s the best we can do with this model, but it’s sucking the life out of these kids. Sitting in front of screens all day is numbing. Going to school twice a week and sitting in enclosed plastic cubicles evokes thoughts of a dystopian world, barren emotionally and intellectually.

To get the kids back in real school, we have to make it safe for the teachers, instructors and our school coaches and administrators and support staff. I didn’t think so last March. But the ground under our feet has shifted since then, as cases of Covid-19 exploded exponentially. Getting educators inoculated as soon as possible is imperative, and doable. Let’s put a hold on vaccinating the oldsters and let the teachers step ahead so they can go back to the classroom and kids can come out of isolation. 

The other group that must be given priority is single parents. I know people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who have children out of school, who are working from home as best they can and who are flying through this storm without a safety net of any kind. Minding the children and working and running a household and troubleshooting the unexpected, like kids’ illnesses or home repairs or car breakdowns, are pushing single parents beyond what should be expected of anyone. Mostly, they are terrified of getting sick and dying, leaving their kids alone in the world.

We can state the obvious: The vaccine rollout has been chaotic, but complaining doesn’t change our lives.

Now, one year into it, let’s pause shots for those 65 and older. Let’s protect teachers and get kids into classrooms. We need to inoculate single parents, and of course keep vaccinating our front-line medical and emergency workers. Then, hoping that pause isn’t too long or costly, we can get back to the older folks.

No one has a blueprint for getting through the pandemic of 2020-21. We need to keep tweaking the plans to meet the facts on the ground, which change every day.

Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.