Kosierowski joins Gov. Wolf, COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force to announce plan to vaccinate schoolteachers and staff

HARRISBURG, March 3 -- State Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, today joined colleagues on the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and Gov. Tom Wolf to announce the state’s plan to prioritize use of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for PreK-12 teachers and other educational staff across Pennsylvania.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last weekend authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use. Pennsylvania will receive 94,600 doses this week. According to the Wolf administration, it’s estimated that this plan will require roughly 200,000 vaccine doses to cover public and private educational staff, with more than an estimated 100,000 educators prepared to return to the classroom by the end of March.

“Today’s announcement is welcomed news for our families and communities, and a step in the right direction,” Kosierowski said. “By allocating the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to our educators, contracted staff and childcare workers we are providing a way to prioritize the health and safety of both our teachers and our students while paving a path to get our children safely back into the classrooms.”

Kosierowski explained that the initial priority is vaccinating school staff that have regular and sustained in-person contact with students during the regular school day, including teachers and staff providing pre-K and elementary instruction, special education, English learners and associated support because younger children are more susceptible to learning loss and their families are more likely to have childcare challenges.

“Two weeks ago, we as a taskforce took the initiative to limit the impact of first doses in order to secure second doses that would coincide with the Operation Warp Speed calendar,” Kosierowski said. “It is critical that we stand here today and make it very clear to all Pennsylvanians that your second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are secured and will be allocated within the CDC recommended guidelines.”

According to Kosierowski, to quickly get the vaccine into educators’ arms, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Education and Health are partnering with the 28 Intermediate Units to establish vaccine sites. The Pennsylvania National Guard and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare will administer the vaccine. Philadelphia operates its own separate vaccine distribution. The vaccination of educators is separate from the ongoing Phase 1A vaccine rollout, which continues at an accelerated pace.

Each IU region will have at least one vaccination location with most locations starting vaccinations between March 10 and March 13. Eligible school staff will receive information about vaccine locations and registration instructions. The vaccine is voluntary.

“Regardless of the type of vaccine you’re given, the bottom line is all three are effective,” said Kosierowski. “The goal of the vaccination program is to protect the health of our residents and to keep them from needing to go to the hospital and requiring the assistance of a ventilator.”

Per CDC guidance, vaccinations are not required for schools to safely resume in-person instruction. The Wolf administration is also working through the retail pharmacy partnership to ensure all early childhood education workers, including those not associated with an IU, have access to the vaccine, including childcare workers providing an essential service to working families across Pennsylvania.

“At the end of the day, we were faced with the task of coming up with a plan to allocate a vaccine supply that simply did not meet the demand,” Kosierowski said. “We, as a state, have the infrastructure, have the incredibly talented providers and the selfless volunteers to get this vaccine into the arms of Pennsylvanians, but all of that is limited if there is no physical vaccine to allocate. By taking the steps we took, Pennsylvania’s first dose supply is now on its way to meeting that demand.”