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Pa. teachers could be moved into current phase of state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, creating anxiety for those still waiting for a vaccine

PITTSBURGH — Discussions are underway to move teachers into Phase 1A, the current phase of Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout, sources told Channel 11′s Aaron Martin.

Washington County Rep. Tim O’Neal, a member of the bipartisan COVID-19 Task Force, alerted GOP House members to the discussions in an email Sunday. However, multiple Democratic sources said no final decision has been made.

The email said the National Guard would be involved in the vaccination process.

Within the next couple of days, the Governor will announce that teachers pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, both public and private will move into 1a, according to O’Neal’s email.

The final decision will be made by Gov. Tom Wolf, sources said.

Last month South Brook Middle School teacher Jeremiah Dugan showed us his virtual classroom from his kitchen table. He wasn’t optimistic he would see his students in-person before the end of the school year. Today those feelings have changed.

“It was an overwhelming sense of excitement that I heard from teachers all afternoon as the word trickled out,” Dugan said.

The possible move comes as Pennsylvania anticipates receiving 94,000 additional vaccines this week due to the emergency authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

“I think it’s wonderful. Once we get the teachers vaccinated and students can go back to school it will be great,” Mt. Lebanon resident Mary Defalice said.

Mt. Lebanon representative Dan Miller supports prioritizing teachers to get students back into the classroom but he emphasized the decision is in Gov. Wolf’s hands.

There are a lot of things in motion,” he said. “So, I would caution everyone about jumping until things are in place.”

When asked about the possibility of moving teachers to the front of the line a spokeswoman for the Governor said, “the task force continues to work on a plan for the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The administration hopes to announce specific details later this week.”

While adding teachers to phase 1a is exciting for some, it’s also creating anxiety for those still waiting for a vaccine.

“I have stage 4 cancer. I can’t see my children or grandchildren,” Anna Anderson, of West Deer, said.

Last week when a partnership between Giant Eagle and the Steelers was announced she spent hours on the computer trying to sign up with no luck.

“I got back up at 4 o’clock in the morning and jumped back on and waited and I heard people were starting to get them around 7 o’clock. I literally kept going in and going in,” she said.

But that frustration could multiply with the addition of teachers.

Anderson worries what that could mean for her chances to get the vaccine.

“Now we have teachers thrown into the mix. I definitely do believe they need to be vaccinated. But it’s just going to make it harder for me,” she said.

Miller says it’s something that needs to be worked out so the vaccine is given in the most equitable way.

“As we see greater access, we have to be sure that people understand how to activate the system in a fair way,” he said.