MEA has compiled answers to these frequently asked questions about the new COVID-19 vaccine as it relates to school employees. For general Q&As (including about vaccine distribution, phases, safety, and more) check out the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) COVID-19 Vaccine webpage and the Michigan Public Vaccine FAQ.
Q: Are school employees being prioritized for receiving the new COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Yes. Based on CDC’s vaccination phases, Michigan has created a priority order for distribution of the vaccine and includes school employees in Phase 1-B, along with other essential workers. The relevant section of the MDHHS COVID-19 Vaccination Prioritization Guidance states:
PHASE 1B: Persons 75 years of age or older and frontline essential workers in critical infrastructure.
Group B: Prioritized frontline workers whose work role has frequent or intense exposure, and, due to the nature of the work, are not able to maintain social distance. For example, a first responder may have to physically touch other people in their response, and a child care provider cannot maintain social distance from children when caring for their physical needs. The specific prioritized categories are:
• Pre-Kindergarten through high school teachers, support staff and child care workers who usually have direct contact with children
Q: When do we anticipate the vaccine being available to school employees?
A: On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that eligible school employees could begin receiving the vaccine on Monday, Jan. 11, as part of a partial start to Phase 1B.
Q: Will the vaccine be available to all school employees when it’s made available, or will it only go to teachers?
A: Based on the definition outlined above – involving “direct contact with children” – all employees who work in K-12 school buildings with students meet the criteria for vaccination in Phase 1-B.
Q: How will school employees be scheduled for a vaccination? Will nurses/public health professionals come to individual schools to administer?
A: Vaccine distribution will be coordinated through county public health agencies, who will work with employers to make appointments for employees to receive the vaccine. Educators should NOT go to a clinic to be vaccinated without an appointment. Two shots of the vaccine (administered three- to four-weeks apart) are needed maximum protection, and safety measures should still be followed (including proper masking and social distancing).
Q: Can my employer require that I receive the vaccine?
A: Health and safety issues are mandatory subjects of bargaining and a vaccine is a health and safety issue. Accordingly, school employers are required to bargain over the terms of a vaccination policy. Mandating employee vaccination in the absence of bargaining can constitute an unfair labor practice by the employer.
Q: Are higher education faculty/staff included in Phase 1B?
A: No. Phase 1B specifically refers to K-12 school employees and childcare workers. MEA is lobbying for expanded access to vaccination for our higher education members who do not meet the Phase 1B prioritization for “pre-kindergarten through high school teachers, support staff and child care workers who usually have direct contact with children.” We hope as more doses of the vaccine become available, these members will be included with other frontline workers who have not yet been made eligible for vaccination.
Q: Are student teachers and aspiring educators doing in-person field placements/observations included in Phase 1B? (added 1/7)
A: Yes, student teachers regularly working with children in a school district are eligible to be vaccinated as part of Phase 1B. This includes aspiring educators completing any in-person field placements. Their vaccination – like other educators – would be coordinated through their host school districts, who need to include student teachers when they are working to coordinate appointments with their local health department.
Q: Will family members of school employees also be eligible to receive the vaccine once school employees are eligible? (added 1/12)
No. Each family member will be eligible for vaccination according to the MDHHS COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Guidance. Review the guidance to determine which priority group each family member is in.
Updated: 1/12/21 at 12:15 p.m. – MEA will continue to update this page with more information and resources when available.