WATERBURY, Conn — Monday Gov. Ned Lamont announced the next phase of the COVID vaccination process will include all teachers and other school staff, which angered other groups, including grocery store workers and people with pre-existing health conditions, who were removed from the next phase.
During a Thursday morning press conference at Waterbury City Hall, Lamont said his decision to vaccinate educators is not all about the teachers.
"A lot of our kids don’t yet feel comfortable going to school because they worry about going home," Lamont said. "Maybe they have a grandmother or grandfather, and they worry about the possibility of infection."
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has said for months that schools can safely reopen without administering the vaccine to teachers. But, Waterbury teachers attending the press conference had plenty to say on that topic today.
"I don’t agree with that at all," said Michele Brittingham, a 6th-grade teacher at Duggan School. "Especially when students can be asymptomatic, you don’t know if they have it or not."
Waterbury Public Schools have followed a hybrid model all year, where parents and students can choose to come to school or learn from home. But doctors say teachers being vaccinated and schools reopening for more in-person learning is a big deal.
"Our emergency department has been almost overrun with children suffering all kinds of anxiety, stress things, probably four times as many (children) as before the pandemic started and the schools were closed," said Dr. Steven Schneider, President of St. Mary’s Hospital.
Waterbury has roughly 4,000 school personnel eligible to be vaccinated. One of the sites vaccinating teachers is the Waterbury Arts Magnet School. Currently, the city has 500 vaccines on hand dedicated to education personnel.
"If we have the vaccine, we could do it in four or five days, easily, probably less because there’s another mass vaccination site across town at Post University," said Mayor Neil O'Leary (D-Waterbury)
"I booked my appointment," said Danielle Byron, a teacher at Waterbury's Kennedy High School. "So, I am ready to go and I think that the school district has taken a lot of precautions for us, so I do feel safe."
Lamont says, moving forward, the new age-based vaccination program makes the most sense for Connecticut.
"What we’ve got right now with teachers, and underserved populations and 55 and above I think addresses those who are most in need, those who are most at risk," Lamont added.
Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz (D-Connecticut) said in Connecticut's over 55 population, "we will be capturing 75% of the people that have pre-existing conditions and comorbidities."