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Missouri teachers want COVID-19 vaccine priority

Every state bordering Missouri except for Oklahoma is currently offering vaccinations to educators

ST. LOUIS — They're in classrooms - exposed to students and meet with parents - but Missouri teachers will not be able to line up to get their COVID-19 vaccines any time soon.

"We are frontline workers," said Carron Johnson, a support staffer at Gateway Middle School. "Teachers and staff are frontline workers. Period. We deserve to be pushed to the front of the line for the vaccine."

Johnson addressed a group of reporters Friday afternoon outside of the St. Louis Teachers Local 420 Union Hall.

Despite outcry from educators and school staff throughout Missouri, Dr. Randall Williams, the Director of Missouri Health and Senior Services made it clear that teachers will not be bumped up.

Lisa Clancy, who represents District 5 on the St. Louis County council, questioned Dr. Williams about the state's decision during a Zoom call Thursday evening.  

"Our North Star is those who are most vulnerable to the biology of the disease to getting sick," Dr. Williams told Clancy.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has given priority to people over the age of 65 and adults with certain health concerns.

RELATED: CDC releases long-awaited guidance on reopening schools

5 On Your Side reached out to multiple school district employees who agree that the current groups should be receiving the vaccine, but would like to be prioritized in their own group.

Teachers fall under Phase 1B, Tier 3 of Missouri's statewide COVID-19 vaccination plan. Phase 1B, Tier 3 includes:

  • Education (K-12)
  • Childcare
  • Communications Infrastructure
  • Dams Sector
  • Energy Sector
  • Food & Agriculture Sector 1
  • Government
  • Information Technology
  • Nuclear Reactor Sector
  • Transportation Systems
  • Water and Wastewater Systems

"It's not that we are seeking to jump the line or compete against our currently eligible tiers for the vaccine," Beth Davey, Missouri's 2018 Teacher of the Year, told 5 On Your Side.

Davey is one of five "Missouri Teachers of the Year" who signed their name to a letter, asking the Missouri Department of Health to prioritize school employees for the vaccine. 

"Truly for the five of us, our hope and our prioritization is to advocate that educators, school staff and child care workers are targeted and further prioritized within tier 3 when that tier opens," Davey said. 

Shelly Parks co-signed the letter with Davey. Parks was named "Missouri Teacher of the Year" in 2019. 

"As educators and people who work with children, we are hopeful that can happen before the end of the school year," she said.

The letter said three of the five co-signers have had COVID-19 and likely contracted it at school. Melissa Wilkerson, a 6th grade math teacher for the Fort Zumwalt School District, said it is a common story.

"We actually just celebrated our 100th day of school today and I am one of the few teachers in the building who have been there every day with the kids," Wilkerson said. "But I'm the minority. We have had a lot of teachers out on quarantine."

Every state bordering Missouri except for Oklahoma is currently vaccinating teachers for COVID-19.

RELATED: Here's how you can get in line for the COVID-19 vaccine