On Wednesday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that vaccinating teachers is “not a prerequisite” for schools to reopen safely, amid increasing calls from parents to return their children to in-person learning.
This also comes as teacher’s unions in multiple states have aggressively pushed back against reopening schools until teachers get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House press briefing regarding the coronavirus.
“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” she added.
In the past, Walensky has expressed that schools should be the first to open and the last to close during the pandemic.
Back in December, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to put “frontline essential workers”—including teachers—to next receive the coronavirus vaccine after first placing healthcare workers and those in nursing homes ahead of everyone else, per CNBC. Despite this, it might be a while until a majority of teachers receive their doses as the U.S. tries to speed up its vaccine rollout.
Last week, the CDC released a study in which it found scant evidence of the virus spreading at schools domestically and overseas when mask-wearing, social distancing, ventilating rooms were implemented.
In several states, teachers unions have been pushing back against reopening schools.
Notably, in California, teachers unions have said they that won’t send their members into an unsafe environment and that they want all teachers vaccinated before returning to the classroom, according to KTLA 5. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) told school officials to “pack it up” if they fail to resume in-person classes soon.
In the state of Illinois, too, Chicago teachers are refusing to teach in person until they have received the vaccine, according to NBC News.
In Boston as well, teachers have made a similar push against reopening until they receive the vaccine, according to Boston.com.
Moreover, the Biden administration has published a COVID-19 rescue plan that includes providing schools and colleges with $170 billion to help them reopen, with some of that money going toward testing.
Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s coronavirus chief, said Wednesday that the president has been “very clear” that he wants schools to “reopen and to stay open.”
“That means every school has the equipment and the resources to open safely,” he said at the press briefing, calling on Congress to “do its part” by passing Biden’s coronavirus plan.
“Not just private schools or schools in wealthy areas but all schools,” Zients emphasized.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.