Camas calls for faster teacher vaccinations

School board urges state to move K-12 staff up on list of those eligible to receive vaccines

Members of the Camas School Board said this week they are calling on Governor Jay Inslee, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and the state’s department of health to ensure K-12 educators are moved up on the list of Washingtonians allowed to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’re fairly late on the list compared to other states,” school board member Corey McEnry, who also works as a high school band director in the Hockinson School District, told other Camas School Board members on Monday, Jan. 11.

McEnry added that Washington’s COVID-19 vaccination schedule would allow one group of K-12 teachers, those over the age of 50, to receive vaccinations in February, while other teachers would not receive their vaccines until April.

“Other states are administering those vaccinations to staff now,” McEnry said.

The other Camas school board members, including board president Tracey Malone, Erika Cox, Connie Hennessey and Doug Quinn, agreed, and said they would especially like to see teachers and school staff have access to COVID-19 vaccines now that the district is beginning its transition back to in-person learning, with first- and second-graders set to return to their classrooms for small-group, part-time learning on Jan. 19.

Hennessey also mentioned that there is a new strain of COVID-19 — B117, which researchers have said is much more contagious and may be more likely to infect younger people — and said she had been wondering about vaccines for educators and school staff.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to vaccinate everyone and then bring our kids in?” Hennessey asked.

Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell said superintendents in the region were set to sign a letter on Tuesday, Jan. 12, calling for vaccinating all school staff at the same time, but mentioned the state had set up various vaccine “tiers” because state officials have not received enough vaccine doses yet to vaccinate the entire population.

Snell said district leaders would be willing to host vaccination clinics for educators and school staff inside schools if that would make it easier to vaccinate K-12 educators.

“We would, if we can, bring them (health professionals) to our schools, maybe turn into a regional vaccination center for other people,” Snell said.

Some Camas School District staff have received their first COVID-19 vaccines, Snell added.

The state has two COVID-19 vaccines — the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — both of which have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for emergency use and deemed safe and effective by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, available to the public.

The state is in the first phase of its vaccine distribution plan, which includes high-risk healthcare workers in health care settings; high-risk first responders; long-term care facility residents; and all other workers at risk in health care settings.

The state’s B1 phase will include all people age 70 or older as well as those over 50 who live in multigenerational households. Phase B2 will include high-risk critical workers over the age of 50, including K-12 educators and staff. The state estimates it will be in this B2 phase in February.

People over the age of 16 who have two or more comorbidities or underlying conditions known to place them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 complications, will be included in the state’s B3 phase, which is estimated to begin in March.

The B4 phase, predicted to begin in April, will include high-risk critical workers younger than 50 who work in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, schools, correctional institutions, jails, public transportation and fire or police departments.

The state has not released information about who will be eligible to receive the vaccine in Phases 2-4, but has said those phases are expected to take place after May.