New federal program gives teachers vaccine priority

Walmart posts a photo on their page when announcing their partnership in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
Walmart posts a photo on their page when announcing their partnership in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

MUNCIE, Ind.(NewsLink) -- COVID-19 vaccinations are available to those 50 or older in Indiana, but as of last week, teachers of any age group are eligible for the vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. 

The program allows teachers to schedule and receive the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March at one of three Indiana partners: Kroger, Meijer or Walmart. 

COVID-19 vaccines have been rolling out since December of 2020, with healthcare workers and older individuals as a top priority. In many states, teachers were included on the priority group as well due to the exposure chances when working with kids in schools. However in Indiana, teachers weren't given that priority until now. 

According to Ball State education major Noah Dial, many of the teachers he worked with over winter break seem discouraged and have accepted that they have been or will be exposed to the virus.

“All these teachers I've talked to were either like 'yeah, I've already had it' or 'I'm expecting to get it,’” said Dial.

This disappointment is common among teachers across many central Indiana schools. Former teacher and data literacy analyst at Anderson Elementary School Libby Perry said "To be denied the vaccine and to say go forth and teach, you know, push the schools open and then shut them down, then open them up, then shut them down, then open them up. It's been rough. It's been very insulting."

While it may be upsetting to teachers that they have been put so low on Indiana’s priority list, some teachers took advantage of the federal program as soon as it was announced.

“So, the minute that we started finding out, phones were ringing saying 'call Meijer, call Meijer' and so that's how I got my appointment for that next day," said Center Grove Middle School Language Arts teacher Patrick Clady.

Clady was lucky. With the program having only been implemented for a week, teachers have already ran into scheduling issues.

"Now, you can't find an appointment or you can't schedule one because they won't let you schedule the second dose,” said Perry. 

Despite the program being offered to teachers now, Dial said vaccine priority took too long to get to them in the first place.

"There's a lot of ignoring teachers anyway before the pandemic and the needs of a teacher have never been very high in Indiana's eyes, in my opinion,” said Dial.

For additional questions on the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, you can visit the Center for Disease Control’s website.

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