The largest teacher’s union is coming out in support of mandatory vaccinations for teachers — or regular testing
The question on the minds of millions of parents across the country right now is this: how can we keep our children safe from the pandemic as a new school year begins — especially when vaccines are not yet available for kids under 12. The head of the largest teacher’s union in the country has one possible solution. National Education Association (NEA) president Becky Pringle has now come out in favor of mandatory vaccines for teachers after the organization previously balked at the idea.
“No one wants to be back in the classroom with their students more than educators, and student safety is our number one priority. NEA has said from the beginning that we need to follow the science, and evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines, combined with other safety measures, are the most powerful weapon we have against the pandemic,” Pringle said in a statement. She also noted that about 90% of the NEA’s three million members have already gotten the shot.
Pringle also presented a possible alternative for those teachers who opt not to get vaccinated. “We also support regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of vaccination for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective. We believe that such vaccine requirements and accommodations are an appropriate, responsible, and necessary step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our students,” she said. She also added that teachers themselves should have a voice in how vaccine requirements are rolled out, in conjunction with state and local governments. Some states have already instituted the policy, including California.
But of course, vaccines alone aren’t enough to keep the surging Delta variant from infecting more Americans. “Educators must also continue to play an active role in developing other mitigation systems—including testing, tracing, masking, distancing, hand washing, ventilation, cleaning, and disinfection,” Pringle explained.
For much of the pandemic, there was a widespread belief that children weren’t in much danger from Covid — but the highly contagious Delta variant has upended that notion. The variant is now sending hundreds of kids to the hospital every single day in the US. Hospitals in hot spots like Florida and Texas have been on the brink of running out of beds for young patients — a medical center in Dallas had just two slots available for the entire city at one point this week.
Adding to the problem is the fact that mask mandates have become a hotly debated issue in many areas, and millions of kids will be heading off to school without them this year — raising the risk for everyone.
The president of another massive teacher’s union, the American Federation of Teachers, seems to be considering a similar recommendation to the NEA’s. “Kids under 12 can’t get vaccines, this Delta virus is very transmissible, so we need to be in school for our kids, with our kids, but we need to keep everyone safe,” AFT head Randi Weingarten told CNBC. “And that means vaccines are the single most important way to do it, and the second way to do it is masks.”