City council, school board members urge COVID vaccine priority for teachers

(Douglas County, NE) -- Some Omaha City Council and local school board members are calling on the Douglas county Health Department to prioritize teachers and school staff for COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Monday, a letter from Council Members Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding, Millard School Board member Mike Kennedy and Omaha Public School Board member Spencer Head sent a letter to DCHD Health Director Dr. Adi Pour asking for the department to prioritize teachers and school staff. Part of the letter reads, "Our public and private educators and administrators have worked diligently throughout the pandemic to keep our schools open and safe. Local schools are responsible for implementing health and safety protocols to protect the staff and students while prioritizing in-person teaching. One of these layers of safety must include prioritizing vaccines for our educators and staff."

“Other health districts across Nebraska have been setting aside doses for school employees for the past few weeks. To our knowledge, the Douglas County Health Department has not set aside a vaccine supply specifically for school employees,” the letter states.

Harding and Melton recently proposed an amendment to raise the children’s age limit on the city’s face mask ordinance and have previously voted against the mask ordinance.

The letter comes days after the Nebraska State Educators Association sent a similar request to Gov. Pete Ricketts. The governor has stated several times that he is requiring local health districts to use 90% of their COVID-19 vaccine allocations for those ages 65 and older but can distribute the remaining 10% at their discretion. "In order to keep our schools open, we must ensure that school employees have priority access to the vaccine. Douglas County has over 115,000 K-12 students whose education cannot afford further disruption this school year. Prioritizing vaccine doses for our teachers is one way to ensure that our buildings stay open and our students continue to learn," the letter states.

Following the Phase 1B priority grid set up by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Douglas County initially prioritized first-responders, then moved to include utility workers eligible for any leftover doses from vaccination clinics.

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