Equity is key to this county's push to vaccinate teachers

Educators in Dallas' most vulnerable zip codes will get vaccines first.

With educators and child care staff eligible to be vaccinated in Texas starting Friday, some counties in the state are working to ensure shots reach teachers who need it most.

The Texas health department announced that teachers would be eligible for vaccination on Wednesday, the day after President Joe Biden directed states to prioritize educators for vaccinations.

"We want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March," Biden said during a White House press briefing Tuesday.

"Let’s treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is," Biden said. "That means getting essential workers who provide that service -- educators, school staff, child care workers -- get them vaccinated immediately."

Dallas County will be vaccinating teachers "to the fullest extent possible" starting Friday, Clay Jenkins, a county judge, said during a news conference Thursday.

To ensure that those who need that vaccine most get it first, the county will offer vaccines to educators and staff who live in 17 FEMA-prioritized zip codes, Jenkins explained, meaning they've been identified as areas where vulnerable residents live. Those in group 1B, who are 65 years old or older or have a health condition that could put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, will also be prioritized.

In Texas, newly eligible educators include pre-school, primary and secondary teachers; bus drivers; Head Start and Early Head Start staff; and licensed child care providers and staff. Roughly 824,000 people fall under the new category, according to health officials.

Major teachers unions, which have advocated for vaccinations for educators before returning to in-person learning, weighed in on Biden's directive Tuesday.

"With the help of this federal commitment to prioritize teacher vaccinations, we’re confident that within the next weeks and months, we’ll be able to be back in classrooms," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. "We look forward to bringing our public schools back to life as places where children can thrive."