Teachers, given priority for COVID vaccine, struggle to find doses as demand continues to eclipse supply

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some teachers are having a hard time finding COVID-19 vaccines as demand continues to vastly outweigh supply, even as President Biden urges states to prioritize them.

The president said he wants all educators to have received at least one shot by the end of March. But that's a challenge for most states, including Illinois, especially consider the continued scarcity of doses.

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There are hundreds of thousands of childcare and school staff across Illinois. They are already part of the 1B vaccination group, and many have been able to get a shot, but still more struggle, especially in Chicago where the sheer number of personnel needing a vaccine vastly outweighs current supply.

At present, CPS offers teachers and staff 1,500 appointments a week.

"The problem is at that pace, at that pace, if it doesn't increase, it's going to take until the end of the year for educators to be fully vaccinated," said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey.

RELATED: Illinois COVID vaccine map shows how many residents vaccinated by county

A new pledge from the federal government aims to significantly speed up that timeline. President Biden has moved all educators and school staff up to the front of the line, even in states that have not yet made them eligible. The goal is to provide at least the first dose of the vaccine to every education worker nationwide by the end of March.

"Safety is key, and knowing that all the adults in the building who choose to get vaccinated are vaccinated is going to be a big help in the right direction," said Kathi Griffin, Illinois Education Association.

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While the administration's move will mostly benefit educators in states that were not yet prioritizing them, it's unclear what difference it will make in Illinois.

"To help states do this, the federal pharmacy program will prioritize vaccinating all school staff, and childcare workers during the month of March," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

For now, however, only a limited number of Walgreens are participating in the federal program. And it's not yet clear whether additional doses will be shipped and set aside specifically for educators' use.

There are no numbers statewide to indicate how many school personnel have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. CPS specifically said that as of Monday, 20,000 appointments have been offered to those who are currently eligible.
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