Central Maine teachers are among those who qualify to receive the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, but questions remain about when they will get their shots.

The second phase — 1B — began Monday and is expected to last until April. Those able to receive shots include people 70 or older, adults with medical conditions and critical front-line workers.

Officials with the Maine Department of Education have said they did not know when teachers will receive the vaccine. Educators across the state are not required to get the vaccine but are strongly encouraged to do so.

“At this time, there is not a plan to administer vaccinations at schools,” said Kelli Deveaux, spokesperson for the state Department of Education.

In some parts of central Maine, returning to a “green,” fully in-person learning model may depend on when the vaccine is readily available for educators.

Pat Hopkins, superintendent in Maine School Administrative District 11, said two weeks ago the district would start to transition to an in-person, four-days-a-week learning model starting Feb. 1. She told staff members they were not required to get the vaccine.

Elissa Tracey of the MSAD 11 board of directors said she felt the transition was too soon, and that it should be done closer to when staff members and administrators could get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Tracey added she did not think the timeline for when teachers could start receiving the vaccine was accurate.

“Maine Department of Education is in constant and direct contact with the CDC and education leaders and school nurses across the state,” Deveaux said, “and we will be provided with updates and information to the educational workforce just as soon as its received.”

Since teachers are considered front-line workers, their access to the COVID-19 vaccine depends on how fast those who have medical conditions and are 70 or older are able to be vaccinated. Teachers fall into the same category as food, US Postal Service and grocery store workers.

Signups for those 70 or older began last week, and many older people in central Maine said they experienced problems trying to register to be vaccinated. More than 400,000 calls were made to MaineGeneral, but only 440 people were able to secure a spot, according to officials.

The COVID-19 vaccinations in Maine are administered on a week-by-week basis through scheduled appointments.

The number of people who are inoculated depends on the amount of vaccine the state receives. In Maine’s eighth week administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, 20,375 vaccinations were shipped to various vaccination sites. Both vaccines require two appointments to receive two doses for the vaccine to be fully effective.

The Biden administration might influence when the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for teachers, according to Deveaux and officials with the Maine DOE and Center for Disease Control & Prevention, according to officials.

Deveaux said updates on when teachers will be able to receive the vaccine will be posted on the state’s COVID response website — www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines.

She added that teachers who fall into other phase 1B categories, such as having a medical condition, should contact their primary care doctor.

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