Early in March, the White House announced a directive encouraging all states to prioritize vaccination of school staff and childcare workers, expanding the number of Americans in the prioritized category by more than 4.2 million.

“My challenge to all states, territories, and the District of Columbia is this: We want every educator, school staff member, childcare worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” said President Joe Biden.

With a goal to have everyone involved in education receive at least one dose of vaccine by the end of the month, the directive was designed to facilitate students’ return to school and enable more adults to return to work. The directive undercut the plans rolled out by many states, however.

As of March 1, 30 states had added K-12 school and childcare staff to their priority populations. Some of the 20 states that had not, including Maine and Rhode Island, had decided to adopt a strictly age-based strategy; others, such as New Mexico, had yet to vaccinate the bulk of their most vulnerable populations—healthcare workers, individuals living and working in long-term care settings, and community-dwelling seniors over age 75 years.

For pharmacists, the conflict between the federal and state priorities generated some confusion. Can community pharmacists vaccinate teachers in states where educators are not yet eligible? It depends. Pharmacies that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program can follow the guidance for that program, regardless of their state’s policies.

According to the CDC, “The federal pharmacy program will prioritize vaccinating all school staff and childcare workers during the month of March. Teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs will be able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations participating in the program nationwide.” The number of pharmacies receiving vaccine through this program will expand to more than 40,000, as vaccine availability grows.

The federal government will provide additional doses to pharmacies in the program to use for educators.

Fewer pharmacies will find the federal program and state guidelines in conflict over the coming days and weeks. By March 3, 35 states and the District of Columbia had extended eligibility to all teachers, according to Education Week. West Virginia added educators over age 40 years and Florida started vaccinating educators over age 50 years.

Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Missouri announced that they would open eligibility to all teachers and school staff between March 8 and March 15. Dates for including educators in the vaccine-eligible population in South Dakota, New Mexico, and Montana remained uncertain. Rhode Island’s new governor, Dan McKee, had pledged to prioritize the state’s teachers in late February, when it became clear he would shortly succeed former Gov. Gina Raimondo, now the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, but the state policy had not yet changed at the time of publication.

In their updated plans, several states specified which vaccine teachers, school staff, bus drivers, and childcare workers would receive. Wisconsin and Pennsylvania designated the first deliveries of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for educators and Massachusetts lawmakers lobbied Gov. Charlie Baker to do the same.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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