Philadelphia teachers next for vaccine, after health care workers and nursing home residents

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

This story originally appeared on Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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Teachers will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine after health care workers and nursing home residents, Mayor Jim Kenney and Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, announced Tuesday.

They could not say when the vaccine would be available.

Farley identified teachers as part of the “second big group of critical infrastructure workers” to get the vaccine. Teachers are “very likely to be exposed while on the job,” Farley said during the mayor’s press briefing Tuesday.

Kenney acknowledged that teachers aren’t among the highest risk workers — as they are unlikely to pass the infection to vulnerable people — but said it would give them a “level of comfort” and help get students back in school buildings faster.

“That will help the economy move faster,” Kenney said.

Farley said the city may also consider using schools as distribution sites, as hospitals began this week taking delivery of the first COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s unclear how many new sites we need to set up,” he said. “But if we do need to set up new sites the schools are a possibility.”

There have been 81,708 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Philadelphia, including 1,223 new cases recorded Tuesday, according to the health department. Of those, 2,141 people have died. Residents of long-term care facilities account for 958 of the deaths..

Many hospitals received their first shipment of vaccines on Monday or Tuesday, and the rest will receive it on Wednesday. The city received 13,650 doses in this first allotment. Hospitals have been advised to begin vaccinating their staff as soon as they are able, and some may have started Tuesday.

The city’s health officials said both vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, are safe and effective.

“I see this as a turning point in the pandemic,” Farley said. “I am very hopeful that this and other vaccines can ultimately end this pandemic.”

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