Mayor London Breed said the city late Tuesday night finalized a plan with state officials to distribute access codes for educators to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.
Teachers and other school staff became available for receiving the vaccine a week ago as the city entered Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine plan.
On Monday, the city was set to receive 5,000 codes for teachers to make expedited appointments to get the vaccine, but the codes didn’t come until late Tuesday.
According to Breed, the codes came late over confusion from state officials on where to send the codes, since the city doesn’t have a county office of education like most other California counties.
“We’ve distributed the first set of codes to the San Francisco Unified School District for distribution to public school educators and support staff, including charter schools that are slated to return to the classroom first,” she said.
Breed added that the city’s Department of Public Health is working with the city’s private and parochial schools to ensure those teachers also have access to the vaccine.
So far, SFUSD has received 2,650 codes for teachers, with this first batch meant to prioritize those returning to the classroom soon, such as elementary school teachers.
Breed has been a staunch advocate for reopening schools, supporting a lawsuit filed by the city attorney last month that seeks a court order to reopen schools as soon as possible.
“We still need a clear timeline for the district on reopening. All of our kids need to be back in the classroom safely as soon as possible, and that includes working to get them back five days a week for full days as soon as possible. We’ve lost so much this year, and we have to do everything we can to get that done,” she said.
Both Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez and SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews called on Breed to improve access to the vaccine in light of the recent delay. According to the pair, because the city moved into the red tier of the state’s reopening guidelines on Wednesday, timing is crucial since the district has agreed with labor unions to reopen schools in the red tier, under the condition that staff gets vaccinated.
“Up to now, teachers have been scrambling to make appointments at Walgreens and CVS, but without the priority codes, they had to get things done the best way they could. Many teachers have been taking BART across the Bay to the Oakland Coliseum to get a shot. We can do better,” Lopez said.
“We have an agreement with our employees to begin opening school sites once the city is in the red tier and staff have been vaccinated. Until we move to the orange tier, any delays in getting staff vaccinated will result in senseless delays in opening schools,” Matthews said. “The city has had the ability to vaccinate our educators for over a week and staff are still having trouble getting appointments. As we’ve repeatedly stated, we need the city to immediately prioritize access for our educators.”
Officials with labor unions representing teachers and other school staff called the vaccine rollout sluggish in a letter to the district, urging the district to abide by health and safety standards recently agreed upon.
“We’ve been advocating for a clear vaccination plan for educators and school staff for months now. We continue to watch as other counties, cities and districts work together to streamline the vaccination process and each week continue to see lack of movement here in San Francisco,” United Educators of San Francisco President Susan Solomon said.