The Baker administration and the state's largest teachers' union continue to butt heads over bringing students back to school and vaccinating teachers, and the latest effort to find common ground resulted in the administration issuing a searing condemnation of the union's request that doses be set aside for teachers and administered locally at schools.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Education Commissioner Jeff Riley had a meeting planned for Thursday morning with the Massachusetts Teachers Association to discuss vaccinations. A day earlier, MTA President Merrie Najimy had said the state's vaccine rollout for teachers had been "poorly timed" with plans to bring elementary students back to the classroom full-time by April 5, followed by middle schoolers on April 28.
"The Baker-Polito Administration is dismayed that despite reasonable efforts to prioritize educator vaccinations, the teachers' unions continue to demand the Commonwealth take hundreds of thousands of vaccines away from the sickest, oldest and most vulnerable residents in Massachusetts and divert them to the unions' members, 95% of which are under age 65," Tim Buckley, a senior advisor to the governor, said in a statement on Thursday.
Baker only opened the state's vaccination program to teachers on Thursday after the White House last week urged states to begin vaccinating educators in March and began pushing doses for teachers through the federal pharmacy vaccine program.
The administration then announced on Wednesday that it would set aside four weekend days in late March and early April at the state's seven mass vaccinations when teachers exclusively could book vaccine appointments. The governor also said he was encouraging regional vaccine collaboratives to also specify days for educators.
But Baker and Sudders both cited vaccine supply constraints as limiting their ability to set aside more vaccines. "We don't have more doses to give," Sudders said Wednesday.
Buckley said the administration "implores the unions to do the math."
"Diverting hundreds of thousands of vaccines to an exclusive, teacher-only distribution system would deny the most vulnerable and the most disproportionately impacted residents hundreds of thousands of vaccines," Buckley said.
The audio attached to this post is a Morning Edition debrief from WBUR's Max Larkin.