HARRISBURG, Pa. - Teachers and school staff in Pennsylvania will be the first to receive the newly approved Johnson and Johnson one-shot COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Wednesday.
Wolf said the state will prioritize pre-k and elementary school teachers and staff, including cafeteria workers, custodians and bus drivers. Both private and public school employees will be eligible in this first wave of doses.
Pennsylvania will eventually open up eligibility to educators and support staff who work with older students. The Johnson & Johnson shot will be used for educators until everyone who is working in the field has an opportunity to get the vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot to provide significant protection against COVID-19 and can be stored in refrigerated temperatures for up to three months. Wolf believes its unique characteristics will help expedite the state's plan to vaccinate teachers and return students to in-person learning.
"Vaccinating teachers and staff is an important step in getting students back into the classroom safely," Wolf said. "As we all know, the youngest learners and vulnerable students including students with disabilities including English as a second language are going to benefit most from in-person learning."
Teachers and administrators in the Garnet Valley School District are happy and relieved the governor has made them a priority for vaccinations.
"Oh my gosh, it's a relief. It's a joy, it's an excitment! We've all wanted to be back," Principal of Garnet Valley Middle School Dr. Lisa Stenz remarked.
"For teachers, it really let’s everybody know that we’re valued. I think the governor is really making a statement that we do value you," teacher Eileen Stec explained.
"We think we could have almost 600 kids back out of my 1,150. But, I also anticipate that might change also, with the good news of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination. That families will feel more comfortable and we built our plans around bringing kids back," Dr. Stenz added.
Pennsylvania expects to receive an initial shipment of 94,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 30,000 from federal partners working with pharmacies in the state, according to the governor. He believes this will free up more Pfizer and Moderna shots for eligible people across the state.
The state is still in Phase 1A of its vaccine plan, offering the shots to people age 65 and over and younger people with high-risk medical conditions — a population that numbers around 4 million.
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