‘It's Been a Roller Coaster Ride': Maine Teachers Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine

The office of Maine Gov. Janet Mills changed course after President Joe Biden asked states to prioritize teachers for the coronavirus vaccine

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In Maine, K-12 teachers and school staff are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines after a change from Gov. Janet Mills' office late Thursday.

Less than a week ago, Maine teachers were told they would part of the state's age-based rollout like most Mainers.

But a day after President Joe Biden asked states to get at least one dose of vaccines to teachers by the end of March, the Mills administration changed course and said it would prioritize teachers beginning with federal partner pharmacies at Walmart, Walgreens and Hannaford stores.

"It's been a roller coaster ride," said Jesse Hargrove, a social studies teacher at Hermon High School, just outside Bangor.

Hargrove said he had not personally tried to sign up to get a COVID-19 vaccine yet, but he said teachers he knew were experiencing "a range of emotions from excitement to even some guilt from younger staff members who felt older parents or grandparents should've been in line first."

"Personally, there's been so much new information, and it's changed almost daily, that I'm trying to just get my feet underneath me," said Hargrove.

When Hargrove hasn't been teaching, he's been working with the school on a plan to get teachers vaccinated.

Alongside the relief that there appears to be a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, schools now have a concern that a number of staff to schedule will vaccines at once creating a sudden need for instructors.

"There just seems to now be a mad rush," said Hargrove. "What we're concerned about is a bunch of teachers being gone at the same time."

Meanwhile, at the state level, officials they heard mixed feedback on the first day.

"I've heard anecdotally people have been able to secure appointments," said Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of Maine CDC. "It still may take couple more days for appointments to open up."

Asked what teachers should expect in the coming days, state leaders think they'll have more clarity as time passes, since not all of Maine's federal partners, which have been directed to make appointments for teachers right away, have availability yet.

On top of that, there will be a dip in Maine's vaccine supply, with 10,000 fewer doses coming into the state next week than there were this week.

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