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Beshear: Educators help Kentucky set pace on vaccinations

Governor prioritizes teachers, school staffers to help fully open schools and support education

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday joined school and municipal leaders in Louisville as nearly 1,200 educators with Jefferson County Public Schools received COVID-19 vaccinations, highlighting Kentucky’s efforts to protect all of its K-12 staffers.

“From adapting to new instruction modes to help our children learn, to packing and delivering meals to ensure no child went hungry and so much more, our educators and school staffers have stepped up in countless ways to help during this pandemic,” the governor said. “The entire commonwealth owes all our teachers, bus drivers and school staff a tremendous debt of gratitude. Now, once again, they are answering the call as we prioritize their vaccinations in an effort to get our schools fully reopened. On behalf of everyone in the commonwealth, we thank you.”

Kentucky is among only 19 U.S. states – and the only state in the region – that continues to prioritize vaccinations for all K-12 staffers. In addition, Kentucky is the only state with plans to finish the first round of these vaccinations by the end of the first week in February.

Following the governor’s call to prioritize educators, the Kentucky Department for Public Health organized a K-12 school vaccinator for all 120 counties, and vaccinations started last week. The governor thanked Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack for helping develop the special program for educators as well as education leaders and regional vaccine partners for their support in making the program a success.

“Kentucky has been a leader in vaccination efforts to protect residents, medical personnel, first responders and now educators,” said Dr. Marty Pollio, JCPS superintendent. “More than 12,000 JCPS educators are scheduled to be vaccinated. This will be an extraordinary accomplishment by state and local leaders who recognize the importance of the health and safety of teachers, bus drivers and school employees who make learning possible.”

“Getting our kids back to school quickly and safely is vital to the current and future health of our community,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, chief health strategist and director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. “This pandemic has shown us the important role school plays in the mental health of our students, and our parents – how it helps keep families fed, women in the workforce, and reducing violence. School is a vital part of the ecosystem of the health of our city.”

“We share a common goal of getting our children back to in-person learning, and today we are thrilled to take a big step forward in making that goal a reality by starting vaccinations for JCPS educators,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “I’m incredibly proud of what’s happening at our LouVax with our many dedicated public servants and an army of volunteers helping us eliminate COVID-19 in our city.”

“Every minute away from my students is a minute too long,” said Tonya Moore, JCPS special education teacher at J. B. Atkinson Academy, who was vaccinated Friday at the LouVax Drive-Thru Regional Vaccination Site. “Getting the vaccine was an important and personal decision for me. My students need me, and the vaccine provides a pathway for me to safely return to my classroom.”

Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, medical director for Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness and for the LouVax Drive-Thru Regional Vaccination Site, said: “Our staff has accommodated every scale up to help more Kentuckians. This week we’re administering 6,000 doses, doubling the size of our program to date.”

In the state’s vaccination plan, K-12 staff are in the second phase, following health care professionals and long-term care and assisted living facility residents and staff.