Gov. Wolf: Pa. National Guard will vaccinate teachers, school employees with J&J COVID vaccine

Written by on March 3, 2021

Gov. Wolf: Pa. National Guard will begin next week to vaccinate teachers, school employees with new J&J COVID vaccine

By Tyler Pratt and Hayden Mitman

March 3, 2021

Photo | Alex Gottschalk/ AP Photo

Pennsylvania teachers and school staff are now eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines. The state will use Johnson & Johnson one-shot doses in an effort to get schools open again. 

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Nearly 100,000 Johnson & Johnson doses are expected to arrive in the Commonwealth this week.

Gov. Tom Wolf says members of the PA National Guard will be getting shots into the arms of teachers and all school public and private employees.

“That’s everybody: teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, janitors, and management, so that we can get our children back to in-person classrooms,” Wolf says.

While the J&J vaccine has a lower efficacy rate than its two-dose counterparts, Wolf says school employees should feel confident.

“There might be a slightly higher risk that you could get some sickness, feel some sickness because of COVID-19, but it’s 100 percent effective in keeping that disease from becoming more serious,” Wolf says. 

State Rep. Bridget Malloy Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna), a former registered nurse, worked on the plan.

“The vaccine is effective whether it’s Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine’s main goal is to keep you from getting ill from COVID-19 and to keep you out of our hospitals out of ICUs and off ventilators,” Kozierowski says. 

Wolf says it’s unclear if schools can make staff get the vaccine, but he still hopes enough doses will be delivered in the coming weeks so the bulk of educators can return to schools by the end of March.

Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association which represents 187,000 teachers and school staff members, applauds the governor’s decision to begin vaccinating educators throughout the state.

“Making the vaccine available to school staff is just a key step to getting students back in the classroom. The one-shot is good, and [so is] the fact that we can get those classrooms to be able to house more students to have more in-person instruction than what’s happening now, sooner rather than later,” Askey says. 

For at least six weeks, PSEA has been pushing for its members to be moved up on the waiting list for vaccines. However, Askey said he thinks a full return to schools could be later than Wolf has suggested. 

“I believe sometime in late April we are going to be seeing more students in classrooms and by late April we will see more in-person instruction happening,” Askey says. 

Teachers and school staff should start getting the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine on March 10.   

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