HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A seventh-grade teacher from Tampa Bay is taking a road trip next week to Alabama in order to get the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
“When teachers in Alabama are getting vaccinated before teachers in Florida, that tells you something,” Jessica Harrington told 8 On Your Side. “It tells you Florida is very far behind with other states.”
37-year-old Harrington has been back in her classroom since the start of the school year teaching civics at a Hillsborough County middle school.
“Literally every day we go to work without the vaccine we feel like we in danger,” she said.
Harrington is still not eligible under the latest executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis which expanded vaccine eligibility Wednesday to K-12 teachers and employees 50 years or older.
But she found out to the north, educators of all ages are being vaccinated in Alabama and one of her colleagues already made the trip.
“Within ten minutes of trying on the website I was able to make an appointment and I will be going there Monday to get my first shot,” Harrington told 8 On Your Side.
She said the 7-hour drive will be worth it because she’s “wanted the vaccine since the beginning, so whatever it takes.”
During his announcement on Tuesday that there should be enough supply by May to vaccinate all American adults, President Joe Biden called on states to prioritize vaccinating school employees.
“We want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March,” President Biden said.
Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is urging Gov. DeSantis to make all K-12 school employees vaccine eligible.
8 On Your Side has learned CVS Pharmacy expanded vaccine eligibility in Florida to teachers, daycare, and preschool workers regardless of their age.
“It’s gonna be difficult for appointments to be made,” Harrington said, adding she thinks CVS made the right decision.
While the Sunshine State cracked down on “vaccine tourism” with a residency requirement, Alabama has not, so Harrington is grateful for her appointment at a Walmart across state lines.
“I’m doing this to highlight the fact that teachers should not have to go above and beyond like this to get the vaccine,” she said, “so this is me making a statement and also trying to keep myself safe as well.”
There are four CVS locations in the greater Tampa Bay area offering vaccinations: Bradenton, Haines City, Lakeland and Plant City.
As of Wednesday night, there are no available appointments at those pharmacies.