Scituate superintendent urges state to get teachers Johnson & Johnson vaccine

SCITUATE, Mass. — Before the latest COVID-19 vaccine received federal approval, Scituate’s superintendent of schools had already written a letter to his local lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker seeking to have educators statewide vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

“I think there’s a win-win situation where we can get our kids back full-time and we can get our teachers vaccinated,” William Burkhead said.

Burkhead asked Gov. Baker to support the ‘vaccination of school personnel through a regional approach utilizing the soon-to-be approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine.’

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“Logistically, Johnson & Johnson is expected to ship 20 million doses of their vaccine by ‘mid-March.’ Simple math puts that at 400,000 doses per state. There are between 72,000 [and] 73,000

public school teachers in Massachusetts,” Burkhead wrote.

Lea Westort of Scituate has three children who all struggling with remote learning, she said.

“Kids need not only be not only face-to-face with teachers where they can be held accountable, frankly, but also they need that social interaction with their friends,” Westort explained.

Scituate schools are hybrid, at the moment, and recently added one additional day of in-person learning.

Last week, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education unveiled plans to take remote learning away as part of a move toward traditional learning in April. Unions were quick to challenge the idea of being forced back into schools without receiving vaccinations.

In videos posted on Twitter, the Massachusetts Teachers Association said educators want to return to classrooms safely.

>>>MORE: If you got your 1st COVID vaccine dose here, the 2nd won’t be available

“It’s time for Massachusetts to get educators the vaccine,” said one teacher in a video posted online Friday.

Westort said she supports teacher vaccinations but thinks students should be back regardless of when educators get their shots.

“It’s happening in other places and we need to do it here,” Westort added.

Dr. C. Michael Gibson said educators, especially older ones, may be at high risk for COVID-19.

“There might be a compromise to get some of those teachers that are in those years vaccinated immediately, right now, and then phase-in the vaccination for some of the other teachers immediately when the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine comes around,” said Gibson, a cardiologist with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Boston 25 News requested comment from Gov. Baker’s office about the letter and was directed to a statement the governor made on Friday:

“I mean, what I would really like to see is some additional supply from the feds, which I think is actually going to start happening. I mean, if what Moderna and Pfizer said in their congressional testimony earlier this week is legit, they’re planning to do twice as many vaccines in March as they did in February. That would mean a heck of a lot more vaccine available to every state, including ours, and our problem, at this point, isn’t the availability of capacity to deliver vaccinations; our problem is we have more capacity than we have vaccines that are available. I also expect that, based on all the noise coming out of the FDA, that [Johnson & Johnson] is going to get approved, and the beauty of that is it’s a one-shot vaccine instead of a two-shot, and it doesn’t require some of the deep-freeze issues that are associated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which means among other things, it’s going to be a lot easier to transport and store, and they have already. J&J says, they’ve already manufactured millions of them and are just waiting to get this approved. If the feds dramatically increase supply, that means we can get through the population that’s involved here on the 65 and two comorbidity issue a lot faster, we can also provide a lot more supply to the channel, all the channels, which will make it easier for people to access appointments, and that will speed up the process by which we get to the next group, which includes, among others, teachers. So, I hope that happens.”

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