TAMPA, Fla. — As more students return to in-person classes, Florida's educators are still waiting to find out when they can get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is sharing more possibilities about how to offer the vaccine to the state's teachers.
Tampa Bay area teachers like Emily Lee have returned to the classroom, masked and cautious.
"The real numbers of classrooms have very large numbers of students," Lee told school board members in Hillsborough County at a board meeting on January 12. "There's not enough space."
She, and other educators, continue to raise concerns about COVID-19 safety protocols in classrooms.
"Students, teachers, and families are at risk," she told district leaders.
Many of Florida's teachers are now left wondering where they fall on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine with few answers from the state.
We asked Governor DeSantis about his plans for vaccinating teachers at a recent press conference in Sun City Center, where he announced the launch of a vaccination pod for those ages 65 and up.
"Of course, we want to give to school districts and police departments," DeSantis said. "But the risk is lower for all of those groups than it is for our elderly."
The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, has continued to push back, saying the state should follow the Centers for Disease Control Priority list for the vaccine.
The CDC recommends that educators should have access to the Covid-19 vaccine ASAP but @GovRonDeSantis has decided to ignore the CDC priority list, choosing to play politics instead. Tell the governor to ensure educators have access to the Covid vaccine. https://t.co/6lMpP0GKxB— Florida Education Association (@FloridaEA) December 31, 2020
However, DeSantis maintains the state will continue moving forward with its "Seniors First" vaccination program.
But, DeSantis now said with only one dose required, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be a good fit for Florida's teachers and the private sector workforce.
"If you have a school district, maybe you have a lot, a lot of personnel, you do one time, and then you're done," DeSantis said. "You don't have to worry about scheduling the booster. So, I think from an efficiency standpoint, the workforce, the J&J [Johnson & Johnson] would be a better fit for that."
The efficacy for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is around 90 percent, while Pfizer and Moderna's two-shot versions are at 95 and 94 percent, respectively.
DeSantis now says we could see FDA approval for the Johnson & Johnson version in February.