Teachers monitor students as they walk to their classrooms during the first day of school at Neshoba County Central Middle School on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

Officials said Monday they cannot say when teachers and first responders will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are next in line.

“I do believe our teachers and first responders are currently slated to go next,” said Gov. Tate Reeves, noting that the current group receiving vaccines contains the most vulnerable individuals. 

Reeves went on to say that currently, the “demand far exceeds the supply” and that there is no way to estimate how long the current phase will last before more Mississippians, including teachers, become eligible.  

Despite an original model from the Mississippi Department of Health that included teachers alongside individuals over 65-years-old, other essential workers, and those with certain pre-existing medical conditions, the vaccine is currently only available to health care workers, those above 65 and those with certain conditions in Mississippi. 

Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff were the first to become eligible to take the vaccine in early January. 

READ MORE: Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines in Mississippi

Some or all teachers are eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in at least 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to an Education Week analysis of official government communications and websites

The state health department reports more than 200,000 Mississippians, or about 7% of the state’s population, have received their first dose of the vaccine as of Feb. 1. 

Health experts, including State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, have continually cautioned that vaccine rollout depends completely on the allotment of vaccines the state receives from the federal government.

“It’s unpredictable and limited,” Dobbs said of the state’s vaccine supply in a Jan. 22 video interview with LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. 

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.