COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW/WSPA) — The South Carolina senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would move teachers up to the 1a vaccine group.
The bill passed by a vote of 42-0 and would move teachers up from Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan to Phase 1a. it would also require them to get vaccinated within 30 days of the bill becoming law.
On the Senate floor, lawmakers amended the bill to also bump up day care workers to Phase 1A. They said this would add an additional 20,000 people to the phase.
According to a survey by the Department of Education, about 71,000 teachers and school staff said they would be willing to get the vaccine if offered to them immediately. There are already 1.3 million people estimated to be in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.
Supporters said this will help get more students back to face to face instruction before the end of the school year.
Senator Margie Bright Matthews (D-District 45) said moving teachers up to Phase 1A will not bump older South Carolinians down the line. She believes the state can handle vaccinating the 65 and older group and teachers at the same time.
She said, “It’s a just a matter of getting a system together coordinating shots and getting them disseminated equally to all of the school districts in South Carolina.”
South Carolina receives about 76,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine a week from the federal government.
The bill is now on it’s way to the House of Representatives.
The legislation’s future in the House is uncertain. Governor Henry McMaster said moving teachers up would lead to the cancellation of appointments for older South Carolinians. The 65-69 age group began scheduling appointments Monday.
Gov. Henry McMaster, who has been against moving teachers up in line, tweeted Tuesday night after the bill passed the senate.
“Breaking faith by slowing down, disrupting, cancelling, or delaying any senior’s vaccination shot is a bad idea with deadly consequences,” McMaster said. “I cannot — and will not — allow their lives to be jeopardized.”
“The most important thing the SC General Assembly can accomplish this session is to make certain that every student in South Carolina has the opportunity to return to full time, in-person learning at the earliest possible time,” Senator Greg Humbree told News13. “Senate bill S-516 is a critical step in achieving that urgent goal.”
State Senators did not vote on a bill that would set aside more than $200 million from the state reserve fund for the vaccine rollout. The bill, passed by the House in January, would also allow more licensed health care workers in the state to give the COVID-19 vaccine.
The state Senate is expected to take up that legislation Wednesday.