Teachers can get vaccinated in every state, but we don’t know how many are

As of this past Monday, K-12 teachers in every state are now eligible for vaccination. Teachers were already prioritized in most of the country, but Biden directed the remaining states to adjust their priority lists last week. The federal government also pulled teachers into the federal pharmacy program, previously used for long-term care facilities.

This is great news, of course—teachers should get vaccinated ASAP so that they can safely return to their classrooms, allowing schools to reopen in person with much lower risk. Vaccinations have become a stipulation for reopening, in fact, in some states like Oregon, even though the CDC has said this should not be a requirement.

But there’s one big problem: we have no idea how many teachers have actually been inoculated. Sarah wrote about why we need occupational data on vaccinations a few weeks ago:

For example, NYC has included “in-person college instructors” in eligibility for the vaccine since January 11. Wouldn’t it be nice to know just how many in-person professors have gotten vaccinated? It’d sure be helpful if Barnard ever decides to do in-person classes again. Or what about taxi drivers? Again in NYC, because that’s where I live, they became eligible for vaccination on February 2. From a personal standpoint, I’d like to know if I could send my taxi driver to the hospital if my mask slips.

The data situation hasn’t improved since February. New York’s report of vaccine coverage among state hospital workers is still the closest thing we have to occupation reporting. A recent article from EdWeek sheds some light on the issue, citing privacy concerns and a lack of data from vaccine administration sites themselves:

Some state agencies and districts have said privacy concerns prevent them from tracking or publishing teacher vaccination data. Others say vaccine administration sites are not tracking recipients’ occupations and they are not in position to survey employees themselves.

It appears that state and local public health departments were even less prepared to track occupations of vaccine patients than they were to track those patients’ race and ethnicity. But without these numbers, it may take even longer for students to return to classrooms, as evidenced by this quote from Megan Collins, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions:

“We’re seeing a substantial disconnect. There are states not prioritizing teachers for vaccine that are fully open for in-person instruction, and others that are prioritizing teachers for vaccines, but aren’t open at all,” Collins said. “If states are going to use teacher vaccinations as a part of the process for safely returning to classrooms, it’s very important then to be able to communicate that information so people know that teachers are actually getting vaccines.”

Biden’s administration has also given schools more money for testing, allocating $650 million in grants to help public schools get access to tests, testing supplies, and logistical assistance. But of course, school testing isn’t being tracked either. New York continues to be the only state that reports detailed data in this area; see our K-12 school data annotations for more info.

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