2021 | Schools

School board asks Hogan to ‘expedite’ vaccine dissemination to Montgomery County

Vaccinating educators is priority, but there aren’t enough doses, letter says

The Montgomery County Board of Education this week penned a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, urging him to “expedite the dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine to Montgomery County,” so school employees can get their doses sooner.

On Tuesday, the school board unanimously approved its reopening plan, set to begin on March 1 for some small groups of children. The plan will begin to phase in other students March 15.

The majority of staff members who will return have not been vaccinated, because county-operated vaccination sites are not yet prioritizing educators.

Some have been able to receive doses through private providers or at state run sites.

The Montgomery County Education Association, the teachers union representing about 14,000 educators, cited the lack of vaccinations as one reason it was concerned about the decision to reopen schools.

In a statement on Thursday evening, MCEA wrote that “the lack of available vaccines is preventing educators from receiving the protection they need, and exposing them to unnecessary risk of harm in the in-school setting.”

In its letter to Hogan, dated on Thursday and released publicly on Friday, the school board wrote that the limited supply of vaccines “relative to our population has significantly restricted our ability to meet this priority goal (of vaccinating teachers) and bring our county one step closer to normalcy.”

“We acknowledge that you do not believe the return to in-person instruction and vaccination should be tied together, however, we all agree that providing vaccines to educators and staff would significantly improve the safety of our schools and provide for a smooth transition to in-person learning,” the letter said. “… Providing the opportunity for MCPS staff to receive a vaccine prior to the start of in-person learning would significantly increase confidence in the safety of returning to school buildings.”

The school board wrote that Hogan should “significantly increase” Montgomery County’s vaccine allotment “as soon as possible.”

Even in the unlikely event that all of the educators who are returning to buildings were vaccinated in the coming week, they would not be fully vaccinated by the time schools are scheduled to begin reopening on March 1. Both versions of the vaccine — from Moderna and Pfizer — require two doses, spaced at least three weeks apart.

For weeks, Montgomery County leaders have challenged the state’s rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination program. They say Montgomery County has received fewer doses per capita than other jurisdictions have.

About 9% (98,487) of Montgomery County residents have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Friday. About 2.7% (28,144) of the county’s residents have received a second dose.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com