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Health department official promises CMS teachers 'will be a priority' for COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Raynard Washington said Mecklenburg County will prioritize teachers in Group 3 of COVID-19 vaccinations, possibly just weeks from now.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Teachers returning to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools classrooms this month won't be included in North Carolina's current COVID-19 vaccination group but the Mecklenburg County Health Department promised they will be given priority when the next phase begins, possibly just weeks from now. 

Group 3 in North Carolina's vaccine rollout includes teachers, front-line employees and other essential workers. 

"As soon as we are able to move into Group 3 as a community, we will prioritize and make sure our teachers and those who have to work in the school setting every day are prioritized," Dr. Raynard Washington, deputy director of the Mecklenburg County health department, said on WCNC Charlotte's Flashpoint. 

Washington said the health department is currently scouting possible schools and other sites for vaccine clinics, which will create easier access for teachers. Novant Health partnered with CMS for a one-day clinic on Saturday, Feb. 6 at McClintock Middle School. District leaders said they hoped to vaccinate up to 165 student-facing employees who happen to be eligible under Group 2 rules. 

RELATED: CMS teachers want to be a priority when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine

"We are going to make sure there are access points in our community for educators," Washington said.

Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper called for public schools to return to the classroom. That announcement was followed by an outcry from teachers' groups, demanding they should be vaccinated during the current phase of the rollout.

"Professional educators want to be back in the classroom," said Justin Parmenter, a seventh-grade English teacher for CMS. "But we deserve to be safe when we do that."

RELATED: Schools can safely reopen without vaccinating teachers, CDC says

CMS is planning to allow some students to return to the classroom starting Feb. 15. Under current guidelines, most teachers won't be vaccinated.