Miami-Dade school employees 65 and older now have a one-stop shop to get a vaccine

Michelle Marchante, Colleen Wright
·3 min read

All Miami-Dade County Public Schools employees 65 and older, including part-time workers, will soon be able to get COVID-19 vaccines through Jackson Health System, the school district said.

Teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors and office staff are eligible. According to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, 700 workers out of about 3,000 eligible employees have already signed up. He said some have already received the vaccine while a very small number have said they are not interested.

Employees have begun to receive emails, calls, texts and information from their supervisors on how to pre-register for an appointment at one of Jackson’s three locations, the district said. Vaccinations at Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network are set to begin this weekend, with additional dates expected to be added in the coming days.

“Whether they are teaching, feeding, transporting students or maintaining our schools clean, our dedicated employees have always worked tirelessly to provide the best environment for all children,” Carvalho said in a statement announcing the partnership. “Protecting the health and well-being of these essential workers is vital to ensuring student learning continues as we move towards stabilizing our community and the economy.”

Employees are not required to get the vaccine, the Miami Herald has previously reported.

Florida educators want to be a COVID-19 vaccine priority group

In December, Carvalho asked for M-DCPS teachers and employees who have direct contact with students to be prioritized for the vaccine in a letter sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, who oversees the Florida Department of Health. So did the Florida Education Association, the state’s teacher labor union.

School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall successfully passed a proposal to advocate for teachers and all school personnel to get priority access to the vaccine, perhaps even using school sites for vaccinations. The Miami-Dade County Commission also passed a resolution that prioritizes teachers and support staff among the frontline workers to get vaccinated.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists educators and other essential workers as a vaccination priority group, Florida isn’t focusing on them yet.

The state’s focus is still on healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff, and people 65 and older. Hospitals can also choose to give the vaccine to people who have health conditions that make them “at risk” of falling seriously ill with the disease.

Carvalho said he’s hopeful about the new federal administration’s education plan, which includes $130 billion for K-12 schools that comes with resources for contract tracing, testing and vaccinations.

While some teachers and school staff have been able to get the vaccine under Florida’s current guidelines, they’ve had to compete with other seniors to book appointments.

And as anyone who lives in South Florida knows, booking a spot hasn’t been easy.

Through this new vaccination partnership, Jackson Health President and CEO Carlos Migoya hopes to “get vaccines into the arms of educators and school system employees ... people who are essential in our community and in the lives of our children.”

“This added layer of protection against the virus will help them continue to work and thrive in a safe environment,” he said.

South Florida colleges and universities have also done or are in the process of finalizing similar partnerships.

Miami Herald staff writer Sarah Blaskey contributed to this report.