Nearly 80 percent of teachers and childcare staff have received at least their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday.
More than 2 million teachers, school staff and childcare workers got one dose of the vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program by the end of March. An additional 5-6 million were vaccinated through their state programs, the CDC's latest estimates and survey data found.
"Our push to ensure that teachers, school staff, and childcare workers were vaccinated during March has paid off and paved the way for safer in-person learning," said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the CDC director, in a statement.
"CDC will build on the success of this program and work with our partners to continue expanding our vaccination efforts, as we work to ensure confidence in COVID-19 vaccines," she added.
The announcement comes one month after President Joe Biden said he would be directing states to prioritize the vaccination of pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers as part of his push to reopen schools.
"So as yet another move to help accelerate the safe reopening of our schools, let's treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is," he said on March 2.
While Biden said "not every educator will be able to get their appointment in the first week" of March, he called for every teacher and childcare worker to receive at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of the month.
Biden responded to the CDC's latest announcement while visiting a vaccination site in Alexandra, Virginia on Tuesday, sharing that the benchmark shows "great progress."
"That is great progress protecting our educators and our essential workers. And because our vaccine program is in overdrive, we are making it easier to get a vaccination shot," he said, according to The New York Times.
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More schools around the U.S. are moving to in-person learning as teachers get vaccinated and new research indicates that classrooms where students and staff are masked and socially distanced are at low risk for COVID-19 spread.
Last month, the CDC said that schools can safely space children just 3 feet apart rather than 6, allowing for more students in the classroom.
Pfizer and Moderna are also currently running clinical trials on their vaccine in children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old.
Currently, Pfizer's vaccine is approved for use in people aged 16 and up, while the other two vaccines currently in use in the U.S., from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are approved for people 18 and older.
As of Wednesday afternoon, about 108.3 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 63 million people who have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Times.
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