MEA Statement from President Grace Leavitt
“After months of advocacy from the MEA and the National Education Association—continued phone calls, letters, and conversations about the need for a vaccine for all our educators—MEA and its pre-K- 12 members are breathing a collective sigh of relief tonight. The MEA and its members appreciate President Biden and Governor Mills for their efforts to prioritize educators and childcare workers for the COVID vaccine. MEA has been advocating for all educators to receive prioritized access to the vaccine and is pleased the voices and concerns of those who are in our schools have not been ignored. MEA appreciates the fact that national and now state leaders are showing our educators the respect they deserve, treating them like the essential workers they are and granting them priority access to the vaccine. MEA is still advocating the vaccine also be available to our educators who work in higher education.”
“Educators across Maine have worked daily to keep our buildings safe, sometimes under extreme circumstances, with students who do not or cannot comply with mask or distancing guidelines. Yet, these educators still show up to work because they want to be with their students because they know in-person instruction is what’s best for students. The knowledge that a vaccine is now more of a reality and not a hope will go a long way in both easing the fears of educators statewide while also allowing for schools to remain safe and open.”
Press Release from Governor Mills’ Office
Maine Aligns Vaccination Plan with President’s Directive to Make School Staff & Child Care Providers Eligible Through Federal Retail Pharmacy Plan
Administration will continue to stand up its dedicated vaccination opportunities for Maine school staff 60 and older
Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills announced today that her Administration will align Maine’s vaccination plan with President Biden’s recent directive to make eligible pre-K-12 school staff and child care providers, regardless of age. According to the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 36,400 school staff and 16,000 child care providers become newly eligible under this directive, aside from the 10,632 school staff over the age of 60 already eligible under the Governor’s age-tiered system.
“I share the President’s desire to vaccinate school staff and child care workers as quickly as possible, just as I want to see all Maine people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Based on the President’s directive, we are updating our plan today to make school staff and child care workers eligible. We will continue to work day and night with our health care providers to get shots into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible, focusing our efforts on those most at risk of dying if they contract the virus.”
“Maine teachers, staff, and school administrators have been dedicated and diligent throughout the pandemic, offering more in-person learning opportunities than in most other states,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “We have already been working with DHHS and Maine CDC to plan local vaccine clinics for school staff age 60 and older and look forward to expanding eligibility to the entire education workforce.”
“We will continue to work with health care providers and partners in communities throughout the state to ensure that all Maine people can get a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “While this will take time, we are aligning Maine’s plan with the President’s directive as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the health of school and child care staff during the pandemic. The more Maine people who receive these safe and effective vaccines, the sooner we can all get back to normal.”
Under the new Federal policy, participants in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program – which includes certain Hannaford, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies in Maine – are directed to give access to available appointments exclusively to school staff and licensed child care workers moving forward. School staff and child care workers should first check the websites of retail pharmacy partners for vaccine availability. Already scheduled appointments made by people 60 and older will not be canceled. Additionally, vaccine clinics in Maine will begin accepting appointments for school staff and licensed child care workers as soon as they are able. Maine school staff and child care providers are encouraged to view Maine’s COVID-19 vaccination website for the most up-to-date information on locations accepting appointments.
Meanwhile, the Maine Departments of Health and Human Services and Education will continue their work to stand up dedicated vaccination opportunities for Maine school staff age 60 and older. The Administration intends to release further information about these opportunities later this week.
Further, the Mills Administration has purchased 250,000 BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests that it has prioritized for schools and child care providers to expand regular testing and support in-person learning. The Administration is also providing an additional $30.5 million in Federal funds to support children, families, and child care providers with affordable child care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mills Administration has dedicated $329 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds to support the operation of Maine schools during the pandemic.
President Biden also announced last night that more vaccine doses would be coming faster, with enough available by the end of May to vaccinate all adults in the United States. The Governor welcomes that news and is seeking further details about when more doses will arrive in Maine. The allotment of vaccine that Maine can distribute for the week of March 8 is lower than the week of March 1 because it does not include any Johnson & Johnson doses. If the Federal government does not increase the supply of vaccine in March to match the increased number of people made eligible under the new directive, Maine’s newly established timeframe to vaccinate Maine people age 60 and older may slow. The Administration is not making adjustments to its timeframe yet as it awaits further information from the White House.
Maine is also adopting the new Federal policy’s definition of school staff and licensed child care workers, which is workers at pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, including teachers, staff, and bus drivers and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers. Vaccine sites will ask Maine residents for proof of eligibility. For these workers, proof of employment can include an employee ID card, a paystub, or a letter from the employer.
According to the Maine Department of Education, as of February 26, the rate of new cases for school staff or students over the previous 30 days is 25 per 10,000, nearly 70 percent lower than a new case rate of 81 per 10,000 for the general population.
According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, 93 percent of child care providers are open statewide, up from a low of just over 50 percent at the start of the pandemic. Fewer than 10 percent of all providers have had a single positive COVpID-19 test within their facility since the start of the pandemic.
Last Friday, Maine adopted an age-based approach to vaccinations to save the lives of older Maine people most at risk of dying if they contract COVID-19 and to ensure that health care providers can efficiently and quickly vaccinate as many people as possible. This includes offering dedicated vaccination opportunities for older Maine school staff.