In a letter sent to Governor Eric Holcomb on Tuesday, teachers in the Greater Lafayette area called on the state to prioritize teachers in its vaccine rollout.
Marydell Forbes is co-president of the West Lafayette Education Association.
“We are not asking to replace anybody, we are asking to be vaccinated alongside them,” she said. “We should be treated as essential workers and you shouldn’t turn your backs on the teachers who are trying to keep our schools open.”
The letter lists five educators across the state, including in Evansville, Clarksville, and Newburgh, who died of COVID-19.
“To me this is unconscionable,” Forbes said. “It doesn’t make any logical sense given the number of people we interact with every day.”
And Forbes points to other states, including Michigan and Ohio, which have both begun rolling out vaccinations for teachers.
“To me that just sends the message that we’re an afterthought,” she said. “Teachers are disposable.”
As of January 26th, the Tippecanoe County Health Department reported an estimated 1,487 cumulative confirmed cases across its school districts. 1,155 of those cases were among students, 321 among staff, 1 student teacher, 1 bus driver, and 9 school administrators.
The state health department said in a statement responding to the letter that vaccines are limited and it has taken an age-based approach to vaccinations because “age is the number one cause of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.”
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report last month which found “little evidence” that schools contribute meaningfully to the spread of COVID-19.
At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walenksy told reporters that the vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.