South Carolina senators pass bill that would bump teachers up on vaccine priority list

Coronavirus

South Carolina Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, speaks on the Senate floor during a debate whether to move teachers to the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021 in Columbia, S.C. The governor doesn’t want teachers to get priority. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina Senate has passed a bill that would move teachers up to Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.

By a vote of 42-0, the state Senate gave the bill third reading Tuesday evening after hours of debate and discussion over amendments.

This would move teachers up from Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan and require them to get vaccinated within 30 days of the bill becoming law.

On the Senate floor, lawmakers amended the bill to also bump up daycare workers to Phase 1A. They said this would add an additional 20,000 people to the phase.

According to a survey by the Department of Education, about 71,000 teachers and school staff said they would be willing to get the vaccine if offered to them immediately. There are already 1.3 million people estimated to be in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.

Supporters said this will help get more students back to face to face instruction before the end of the school year.

State Sen. Margie Bright Matthews (D-District 45) said moving teachers up to Phase 1A will not bump older South Carolinians down the line. She believes the state can handle vaccinating the 65 and older group and teachers at the same time.

“It’s a just a matter of getting a system together coordinating shots and getting them disseminated equally to all of the school districts in South Carolina,” she said.

South Carolina receives about 76,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine a week from the federal government.

The bill is now on it’s way to the House of Representatives.

The legislation’s future in the House is uncertain. Gov. Henry McMaster said moving teachers up would lead to the cancellation of appointments for older South Carolinians. The 65-69 age group began scheduling appointments Monday.

He wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening: “Breaking faith by slowing down, disrupting, cancelling, or delaying any senior’s vaccination shot is a bad idea with deadly consequences.”

State senators did not vote on a bill that would set aside more than $200 million from South Carolina’s reserve fund for the vaccine rollout. The bill, passed by the House in January, would also allow more licensed health care workers in the state to give the COVID-19 vaccine.

The state Senate is expected to take up that legislation Wednesday.

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