HONOLULU(KHON2) — Hawaii is on track to get all teachers vaccinated by the end of March, 2021, according to Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green.
It is all about getting students back into classrooms.
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Green said, the State has been diligently moving in that direction from the start.
“We have to protect our teachers,” Green said. “We want them in the classrooms.”
Hawaii educators are frontline essential workers and are included in phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan. They have been allowed to get their shots since mid-January.
Kalani High School teacher Brooke Nasser said, vaccines are key to ensuring a safe reopening.
“With masks and social distancing, (vaccinations) would give me, and I think many other teachers in Hawaii, an enormous degree of security and comfort, being in the school environments that we have,” Nasser explained.
The push is not just about their safety. It is also for the welfare of their students — some of whom have been distance learning since the pandemic started.
“It’s critical for the mental health care of our own keiki,” Green said. “They have to be in school. They have to have that social connection being in person in school, and we have to vaccinate our teachers to keep them safe. That’s the, that’s the key to this process.”
A survey conducted by the teacher’s union in mid-February showed that 71.9% of teachers who responded had either been vaccinated or were going to get their shot.
Green said, the state is on its way to having every teacher who wants the vaccine inoculated by the end of March.
He added, the arrival of 11,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday, March 3, will help.
“I recommend the Johnson & Johnson shot for people who don’t have underlying health conditions, especially for people who are a little bit on the younger side, which kind of defines our teachers,” Green said.
He said, there are still those who do not want to get the shot, however. Roughly 20% of people fit into that group.
Nasser, who is waiting for her second shot, said she hardly knows anyone who does not want to get vaccinated.
“As a proponent of science, and a teacher and educator, I am pro-vaccine,” Nasser said. “I encourage everyone to get a vaccine. Having said that, I am not comfortable or in a position to force anyone or to make vaccines a requirement.”
Green said, there are many other school workers that should also get inoculated while more teachers are vaccinated every day.
“It’s a 45,000 person cohort to open the schools. That includes teachers, plumbers, and administrators that see children, counseling counselors, just lots and lots of groups. It’s a big lift. It’s one of our biggest industries — education in all of Hawaii,” Green explained.
“But we will be ready for the fourth quarter, the academic fourth quarter, which is this spring for our kids to be in classrooms, especially elementary school kids.”
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, March 3, he would use federal authority to get teachers across the country vaccinated by the end of March in order to reopen schools.
Hawaii is already ahead of the curve.