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Local advocacy group pushing to start vaccinating teachers

SC for Ed wants educators bumped up into the next phase scheduled to receive the COVID-29 vaccine.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A teacher advocacy group is pushing for teachers to be included in the next phase of vaccinations for South Carolina. 

SC for Ed, a statewide advocacy group, is rallying for teachers to be placed in the next phase as several school districts have returned to in-person teaching. 

"We feel strongly that if the governor is going to push for us to be in the classrooms five days a week, protections need to be provided to us to ensure our safety, the safety of our students, and the community at large," said SC for Ed board member Nicole Walker.

The organization is calling on fellow educators and support staff to participate in action steps this week. Walker says they are hoping this call to action will lead to vaccines getting into teachers' arms.

"There are some people in the state who believe that all we want is to walk out," said Walker. "That couldn't be further from the truth. What we want is safety and the school community to be respected."

On DHEC's website, a timeline shows teachers and school employees are in line to get vaccinated sometime in the spring. Walker says that's too late.

"Here in my district, we have been told the first week in Jun," explained Walker. "The last day of school for us is June 6th. That's the reason for the week."

RELATED: CVS to begin vaccinating eligible population in SC

News 19 reached out to the governor's office about the possibility of teachers being prioritized in Phase 1A. We got a statement saying:

"Teachers and school staff are appropriately prioritized in Phase 1b of the vaccination plan, and we certainly want to be able to move into subsequent phases as soon as vaccine production and availability allows. However, while vaccine supply from the federal government remains as limited as it currently is, we have an obligation to vaccinate those South Carolinians who are at the greatest risk of dying from the virus. Preventing death has to be the state's highest priority, which is why the governor will soon announce that those 65 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine." 

We also reached out to the South Carolina Department of Education about teachers possibly getting the vaccine earlier. The department's spokesperson says it's a possibility. Walker says educators quarantine constantly due to possible exposure. The change could from Phase 1A to Phase 1B could reduce the risk.

"Our feeling is that is not how to give students instruction," said Walker. "It's another reason why need those vaccines."

RELATED: Midlands pharmaceutical company hopes to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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