Teachers to start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday

By The Star Staff

Public and private school workers, including teachers, are slated to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting Tuesday, Education Secretary-designate Elba Aponte Santos announced over the weeked.

“The Health Department and the Puerto Rico National Guard [PRNG], along with the Education Department, have established the logistics to direct us to provide in-person learning services, safeguarding health and safety,” Aponte Santos said in a written statement. “For now, three vaccination centers have been set up, and eventually more will be opened.”

The first three vaccination centers will start to operate in the municipalities of Bayamón, Mayagüez and San Juan. More vaccination sites will gradually be opened in other parts of the island to meet the goal of vaccinating about 55,000 people, including private school employees, an effort that will be announced shortly.

The vaccination sites opening Tuesday are: Coliseo Rubén Rodríguez in Bayamón; Mayagüez Sports and Recreation Palace and Federico Asenjo Pre-Technical School in San Juan.

The centers assigned to Education will operate from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Logistics will be established through the regional superintendency offices in collaboration with their school principals. Each regional superintendent will set up the days and times in which the school staff under the given regional educational office will be vaccinated.

“Vaccination work with Education personnel will be carried out in various areas to facilitate the process and to be able to vaccinate employees who have already expressed interest in the agency’s consultation,” Health Secretary-designate Carlos Mellado López said. “We have been working in various places throughout the island to establish vaccination spaces according to the availability of the vaccine.”

In the island municipalities, the PRNG has already vaccinated 20 teachers in Culebra and 107 teachers in Vieques.

“By the nature of their work, teachers and other education professionals need to be protected in order to protect our children and youth. We urge all school personnel to go to the vaccination centers established in each educational region, several of which are operated by the Puerto Rico National Guard,” said PRNG Adj. Gen. José Reyes. “We all seek to return to normalcy, but we must do so wisely and responsibly. Along with social distancing measures and the use of masks, vaccination is the most effective weapon we have to control, and eventually, counteract the virus.”

The nearly 800 employees working in the central offices of the Education Department must go to Federico Asenjo Pre-Technical School in Barrio Obrero when their supervisors indicate, and deliver the documents that they must bring to their appointments.

“We have equipped the regional superintendents with the tools to organize their respective schools and be key parties in the process,” Reyes said. “It is up to them to inform the principals and teachers when and where to go to get vaccinated.”

School nurses will support the PRNG in the process. They received, during the month of December, training on vaccines through an alliance with VOCES Vaccination Coalition and the Health Department. School nurses were vaccinated Saturday.

On the day employees are vaccinated, they will be exempt from vacation or sick leave.

Likewise, since the process involves two doses, employees must be available to receive the second dose -- after 21 days in the case of the Pfizer vaccine and after 28 days in the case of the Moderna vaccine -- which will be administered punctually in the same center where they received the first one.

The Education Department has 24,536 teachers and 13,010 non-teaching workers. While it is recommended that all personnel be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a public health measure, no worker will be forced to do so.

During the month of December, an employee survey revealed that 88 percent responded affirmatively regarding their desire to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.

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