S.C. teachers hope Senate bill boost them to Phase 1A; DHEC not backing it

Fight to move S.C. teachers into Phase 1A

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) -North Carolina will start vaccinating teachers by the end of the month. Just across state lines, South Carolina teachers are trying to fight for the same thing.

”A state line should not determine the safety and not safe,” said teacher Taylor Castaldo. “So if one state can do it, I think all states can do it.”

South Carolina’s state Senate agrees with the teachers.

It unanimously passed a bill Tuesday to put teachers in Phase 1A, but the bill might not have the state health agency’s approval.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says there are 1.3 million people in Phase 1A right now.

DHEC has not vaccinated half of that number.

The health agency knows not everyone’s going to want to get a shot, but South Carolina health officials say adding more people into this group would not be the right move.

”We want to be back with our kids but we want to be back safely,” said Castaldo.

Calstado, a Fort Mill Elementary School teacher, says her tradeoff for teaching face-to-face five days a week is a vaccine.

”To get that common goal of teaching and teaching safely face-to-face is that we need to be vaccinated,” she said.

Health experts from Duke University agree, but the experts at the Department of Health and Environmental Control are not convinced.

” It would be hugely advantageous to ensure that a larger proportion of those that are returning in person vaccinated,” says Ibukun Akinboyo, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Duke University.

”Teachers are currently not in 1A because of their risks,” said DHEC Senior Public Health Deputy Nick Davidson.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control found in-person learning did not add to community spread. Despite teachers’ Phase 1A push from the Senate, DHEC’s not ready to pull the trigger.

”If we’re to save lives, it’s all about vaccinating those that are most at risk. We need to focus on those that are most at risk,” said Davidson.

Castaldo is still holding out the Senate’s bill will become law so there are less discussion and more action.

”Even though we have some precautions that we’ve been taking, it’s not safe enough. So the vaccine will give that extra layer of protection and comfort,” said Castaldo.

Castaldo said teachers are not saying they deserve the vaccine more than other groups. They just wanted to be vaccinated before going into a classroom, which is already happening statewide.

Teachers will have to go back if this bill gets passed.

The next steps for the bill is a House vote and a signature from the governor. Governor Henry McMaster has been outspoken about teachers getting vaccinated saying they need to wait for their turns.

If he does sign the bill, teachers have to be vaccinated within 30 days.

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