Teachers on Kauai can start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as Monday, while those elsewhere in Hawaii will be able to get them by the end of the month into early February, the state teachers’ union said Friday.

Teachers, child care workers and education support staff are classified as “front-line essential workers” in the second phase of Hawaii’s vaccination rollout, placing them right behind health care personnel and long-term care facility residents on the state’s priority list.

The COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory, but the Hawaii State Teachers Association is encouraging all of its approximately 13,500 members to get one. The inoculation, which includes a second dose, “will open up safer opportunities to increase in-person learning options,” the HSTA said in a statement.

HSTA Hawaii State Teachers Association Oahu Office located at 1200 Ala Kapuna Street.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association is encouraging all of its members to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The HSTA has opposed re-opening schools for in-person learning until the state can tame the number of COVID-19 cases spreading around the islands.

Kauai public school employees will begin receiving vaccinations first because the Garden Isle has additional supply available and the Department of Health is able to distribute them, the union said.

Educators elsewhere will gain access to vaccines on a regular basis toward the end of January and early February, it added, citing talks with state officials.

“The goal is to complete distributing the vaccine as quickly and effectively as possible, so distribution may ebb and flow at various rates based on the availability of vaccines within the immediate geographic area,” the union stated in its post.

The HSTA added that it has requested vaccine distribution sites be set up near schools if possible to make it more convenient for teachers and is waiting to hear back on a request to the Hawaii Department of Education to offer paid work time for teachers to get the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved for anyone under 16. The HSTA added that the state has given no indication that it will mandate vaccines for students or distribute them through the public school system for those over 16.

The DOH would be the lead on determining any mandatory vaccination effort, it said.

Schools, through their district offices, will begin surveying employees on their desire to receive a vaccine, the union added.

A timely response to the survey will ensure that an employee is placed on a list for access and shared personal contact information will help to track down employees for the administering of second doses, it said.

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