While most Indiana educators are waiting to find out when they can get vaccinated, some special education teachers and assistants are already eligible, according to state officials.
Special education staff who provide close medical care to students, such as suctioning to clear mucus from airways, can get vaccinations from the state as healthcare personnel, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said during a Wednesday press conference.
In most cases, teaching assistants provide that care. But in classrooms without assistants, such as smaller or more rural schools, special education teachers may provide those services, Box said.
“Under those circumstances, I would most certainly want them to be able to get vaccinated,” she said.
Several other categories of healthcare professionals and assistants who often work in schools are also eligible, including occupational therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, social workers, and nurses. The full list is available on the state website.
If Indiana teachers do not qualify under one of these categories or based on age, it could be a long wait before they are able to get vaccinated.
The state is currently vaccinating Hoosiers who are 65 years old and older and will turn next to those 60 and older. State officials said Wednesday vaccinations will then be open to people 50 and older and those with certain health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus.
Many Indiana teachers have become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks that the state is not prioritizing educators in its vaccine distribution. Most Indiana districts have reopened for in-person instruction, and while other states have begun vaccinating teachers, Indiana has yet to announce when they will be eligible.
At the press briefing, Chief Medical Officer for the Indiana State Department of Health Lindsay Weaver urged people to be patient.
The state has long planned to prioritize “individuals who are at particular risk of severe illness or death associated with COVID-19 disease based on the latest evidence-based criteria,” Weaver said. “We are expanding vaccine eligibility as quickly as our supplies permit.”