BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard Public Schools announced Friday it has partnered with the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to teachers, substitutes and other district employees over 65 years old.
“We wish all teachers can get it right now, but this is a great start,” said Kyle Savage of the Brevard Federation of Teachers.
Savage added that it’s great news knowing that was made possible at an event solely for senior teachers and staff from Brevard County schools on Saturday morning.
“It is so sad, almost every single day we get a phone call with somebody with COVID, and sometimes it’s mild symptoms and the elder teachers they feel it,” he said.
The vaccinations happened Saturday at the Health Department clinic in Viera, and were by appointment only, the district said in a news release.
Eligible employees were previously notified and instructed on how to book appointments, the release said.
“We have committed to doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our employees who serve on the front lines each and every day during this pandemic,” Superintendent Mark Mullins said in a statement. “We are thankful for our partnership with the Department of Health, and for this opportunity to help protect our staff who dedicate their lives to educating the future of Brevard County.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended teachers and school staff that interact with children receive priority for the vaccine alongside other “frontline essential workers.”
Vanessa Skipper, vice president of the Brevard Federation of Teachers, said the teachers union “wholeheartedly” supported the move, calling it an “important first step.”
“We wish (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) would recognize we are in the CDC guidelines for priority 1(b) vaccines, and that teachers and school staff of all ages should be receiving the vaccine, but this is an important first step,” Skipper told FLORIDA TODAY.
DeSantis has resisted calls from groups like Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, as well as local teachers unions around the state, to heed CDC recommendations and make the vaccines broadly available to teachers.
He defended his decision to distribute the vaccine to all Florida residents over 65, saying the strategy was aimed at reducing the virus’s mortality rate. Adults over 65 are considered at the highest risk of death from COVID-19.
Lake County held a vaccination event for senior educators this past week, and Orange County will begin vaccinating senior school employees who want the shot beginning Sunday.
Back in Brevard County, Saturday’s vaccine event also happened as this 52-year-old reading teacher from Lyndon B. Johson Middle School in Melbourne died last month from COVID-19.
More than 300 school employees got the vaccine, according to the district.
“Anytime we can get those quarantines down and teachers in the classroom, I think we’re winning the battle,” Savage said.