BRYAN, Texas — Teachers and childcare providers in Texas have eagerly signed up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) followed federal guidance and expanded the list of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to include those frontline workers.
Jennifer Hendricks loves teaching science. She said it is one of those subjects that incorporates a lot of hands-on learning, which teaching at the sixth-grade level is pretty important.
"It’s so much fun watching kids make connections with science," said Hendricks, who teaches at Harmony Science Academy - Bryan.
The past year has been a range of emotions for Hendricks and many other teachers.
Hendricks' school began the academic year virtual but shortly transitioned into a hybrid learning format. When she got word that Harmony Science Academy would return to some in-person learning she had her concerns regarding COVID-19.
"It was just the fear of coming around people because I had been pretty much a hermit for four months at this point," Hendricks said.
Other teachers around the school also shared those same concerns, especially when it came to the safety of their students and fellow staff members.
"My first concern was whether or not I would potentially catch [COVID-19] and spread it to somebody who would be immunocompromised," said Darrell Nichols, a seventh and eighth-grade history teacher at HSA - Bryan.
Some hope came in December when the FDA approved the emergency use of two COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. However, as vaccine rollouts began in Texas and weeks went on, those working in schools continued to be left off of the lists of groups eligible to receive the vaccine.
"When we think about those people who go out there and serve their community in such a way and you hear teachers not being on that list, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect there," Nichols said.
Those frustrations turned into sighs of relief Wednesday. The DSHS announced they've expanded the list of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to include teachers and childcare providers.
“Huge relief," said Madison Pike, a science teacher at HSA - Bryan. "I was able to sign up this morning for an appointment to receive my first dose of the vaccine tomorrow afternoon.”
For Hendricks, she said it is like a weight off her shoulders. She believes she will be able to get back to focusing on teaching, instead of worrying if today is the day she may catch the coronavirus.
“I will be able to sleep a little easier," Hendricks said. "I will be protected, but I will be protecting not just myself, but my fiancé and my students.”
The DSHS said this does not change the other groups being prioritized for vaccination in Texas. Providers are encouraged to continue their efforts to vaccinate older adults.