Private Schools Plead to Receive Vaccine at Same Time As Public Schools

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When asked why public school employees are receiving COVID-19 vaccines and nonpublic school employees are not, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said it was up to Gov. Larry Hogan to prioritize which groups are eligible to get the injection, not the county.

During an interview on WAMU’s  Kojo Nnamidi Show Jan. 29, Elrich said, “How the Governor decides to prioritize private schools, you know, we don’t make a decision to who we are going to vaccinate or not.”

Maryland educators are eligible under the state’s current Phase 1C, but Montgomery County still is concentrating on its elderly population first before moving onto future phases, because there aren’t enough dosages to cover everyone who is in the first phase, Elrich said on the show.

“We are turning away people,” he said, adding that it would take 14 weeks to vaccinate county residents who are at least 75 years of age under the county’s current allocation of about 5,000 doses a week.

Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM) started vaccinating Montgomery County Public Schools employees last week as part of an initiative to help prepare for the reopening of schools.

Maryland gave JHM 8,775 doses last week to vaccinate county residents who are MCPS employees or at least 65 years old and have received care from its system in the past two years.

“MCPS is grateful for this collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and Johns Hopkins Medicine that will provide all MCPS employees with access to the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine offers a significant level of prevention against acquiring COVID-19 and increases the level of safety for staff and students,” said Superintendent Jack Smith in a news release. “Providing access to the vaccine to our employees is a crucial step toward a return to a level of normalcy for all of us and a return to in-person instruction.”

“The county has a list of which teachers who will be coming back first,” Elrich said. MCPS plans to open its physical classrooms to its youngest and special education students first.

“How the Governor decides to prioritize private schools, you know, we don’t make a decision as to who we are going to vaccinate or not,” Elrich said. He guessed that “it may be the Governor’s priority in opening up the public schools” to have public school employees vaccinated as soon as possible.

Elrich also noted that the county is prioritizing people of color or with low incomes to try and make the vaccination process more equitable. Public schools have “a lot more people, often including populations that are at much higher risk than the private schools.”

However, Hogan took to Twitter to stress that all teachers must be vaccinated. “Discriminating against private school teachers in administering the vaccine is wrong and against state policy. Any COVID-19 vaccine provider who does so will have future vaccine allocations reduced or reallocated to other providers.”

In a Jan. 30 letter, Maryland Department of Health Acting Secretary Dennis Schrader noted, “It is the health policy of the State of Maryland that nonpublic schools may not be excluded from any COVID-19 vaccine provider who is administering COVID-19 vaccine to

A private Facebook page entitled Vaccinate MOCO Nonpublic School Teachers and Staff, which grew from the nonpublic school group that strove to allow their schools to open last fall when MCPS opted to go virtual, has been active with complaints about not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. It currently has 4,100 members.

On Care2 Petitions, as of Monday, 389 people had signed the document that called the county “unfair considering brave private school, parochial school and day care teachers have been heroically on the front lines educating children in person across the country without fail since September.”

The petition asks Hogan “to intervene and give private school teachers across the state the same Covid vaccination priority as public school teachers.”

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