Florida teachers urge DeSantis to prioritize them for COVID-19 vaccinations

As the COVID-19 vaccine gets distributed, a Central Florida teacher's union is calling on Governor Ron DeSantis to put teachers near the top of the list for doses.

One Orange County instructor, Sarah Yelensky, told FOX 35's Sydney Cameron that educators should be offered the vaccine after the highest priority group, which includes healthcare personnel and long-term care facilities. 

That thinking follows the CDC guidelines of putting the education sector in phase 1-B for vaccinations. Yet, Governor DeSantis has yet to say anything publicly about where educators specifically fall on the state's priority list.

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"If we are essential enough to open brick and mortar schools in August and continue to remain open during the surges in cases, then we should be essential enough to receive the option to have this vaccination as quickly as possible," Yelensky said. 

She added that teachers working in schools come into contact with hundreds of students a day. In addition, daily she has cafeteria duty for about 100 students -- who have to eat without wearing masks.

"We can't protect everything all the time and being vaccinated or having the choice to be vaccinated would offer an additional layer of support," Yelensky explained. 

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Since August, Orange County Public Schools has had more than 1,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The President of the Orange County Classroom Teacher's Association, Wendy Doromal, said that teachers are struggling to maintain proper social distancing and that they are "risking their lives every day as more and more kids are coming into the classroom."

Governor DeSantis recently announced who will get the first vaccines in Florida, giving the highest priority to long-term care facilities, then healthcare workers, followed by the 65 and up community who have pre-existing medical conditions.

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"We are working to get as much vaccine for our citizens as possible, but Florida will not, nor will any state, have enough to vaccinate everyone right off the bat," he explained

The Governor regarding schools said that they would remain open for the rest of the school year but will also continue to offer online classes. 

"If the Governor thinks it is such a great idea to fling open the school doors when there is a surge and when there are high positivity rates, then test the teachers and also give them vaccines to protect," Doromal said.

FOX 35 has reached out to the Governor's Office to find out where teacher's fall on the priority list and when they might get access to the COVID-19 vaccine.


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