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If Schools are That Important, Vaccinate All School Personnel in Short Order

February 16, 2021

I read in the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) latest guidance for schools that it believes schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen in the pandemic.

I read about how important schools are, how school attendance is critical for students’ well being, and how schools are important because schools feed many children.

I read about how vaccinating teachers is a priority, but not vaccinating should not prevent schools from opening, but that schools need to have a ready supply of substitute teachers because teachers will be exposed to COVID.

I read about how according to the latest research, school infection rates are lower than that of the surrounding community, but I did not read just how every adult who works at a school is supposed to dodge COVID exposure just from being an adult who must, to some degree (and to varying degrees), be among other adults who could expose the teacher to COVID. I also did not read about the impact of more contagious variants upon school-site COVID spread.

I read about how schools are supposed to set aside resources to promote social distancing, and cleaning/disinfecting, and for necessary supplies like masks and additional personnel, and adequate ventilation, but I know that public education is an underfunded necessity, a make-do overstretching of what is already overstretched, and that it is beyond the CDC to tell schools and districts exactly where the dollars are to come from to fund its COVID-combatting suggestions.

So. Given where we are with vaccine development, and given that the CDC and others expect schools to remain a cornerstone of stability even in the face of a pandemic, I think it is about time for the Biden administration to make vaccinating all school personnel a priority in short order.

If Biden declares vaccinating all school personnel a priority and supplies the vaccine, the manpower, and other resources to make it happen in all states/territories, then schools will truly be in a position to be stable in this pandemic.

If all school personnel are vaccinated, then being exposed to others who have COVID, whether on site or otherwise, becomes a virtual nonissue. COVID infection will notably decrease among faculty and staff; the complications associated with quarantining school-site adults (including amassing that nonexistent, endless pool of substitutes) are wiped away, and schools are in a markedly strengthened position to be the last to close and first to reopen in this time of COVID.

Let’s listen to Dr. Jonathan Reiner’s suggestion about vaccinating teachers and include all school personnel:

Speaking with CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday night, Reiner, who is director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at George Washington University, presented his solution to what remains as one of the most vexing problems of the pandemic.

Both the Biden White House and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky have faced criticism about the CDC’s just-released official guidance about how to safely reopen schools, which calls for numerous mitigations strategies be put in place and community transmission rates be minimized, but does not mandate teachers be vaccinated before resuming in-person learning. However, the agency did recommend states move teachers into higher priority groups for vaccinations. …

[Reiner:] “Look. The CDC put forth this plan to open schools but it requires schools to open in places where the level of virus is low in the community and most parts of the country don’t have that right now. Almost 89 percent of the districts are still in red zones,” he noted. “It requires big, physical distancing in classrooms, six feet between students and, you know, classrooms are cramped… It’s going to be impossible. Plus, the reassuring data about the low level of transmission in schools was acquired in a non-variant environment and with the emerging variants, there’s no data to reassure teachers.”

“So, let’s treat teachers like first responders,” he suggested as an alternative. “Let’s treat them the way they need to be treated and vaccinate them all. Next week, the FDA is going to review the data for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is likely to be approved shortly thereafter. Let’s take the first four million doses of that vaccine and dedicate it to America’s teachers. Let’s proactively vaccinate them… Let’s take the vaccine and vaccinate them the way health care workers are vaccinated. You know, bring them all into school over two weeks and vaccinate every teacher in the country. Open schools three weeks later.”

Reiner tweeted his idea in response to CDC director Rochelle Walinsky’s interview referenced above:

And here is Reiner again with his idea to vaccinate all teachers. (Again, I think this idea should include all school personnel.)

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4 Comments
  1. fullerhunt permalink

    What a load of garbage. Covid is part of the common cold family. There was never a need to quarantine, mask up, or shut down schools. If you are unable to work with children for fear if getting sick, you should NOT be a teacher. It’s a hazard of the job.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  2. speduktr permalink

    Tell that to the almost 500,000 people who have died, or are you one of those who will be shouting at the healthcare workers as they put you on a ventilator that it can’t possibly be Covid because that is no worse than a cold!? Countries around the world are not racing to create and produce vaccines to fight the common cold.

  3. Christopher David Lake permalink

    Brilliantly stated. Bravo!

  4. Kent permalink

    Teacher here from WA state. My wife is a primary care physician and in the front lines of the current vaccine wars. She is 1A and got her vaccine weeks ago in early Jan. We’ve talked about this issue. I think there is an unstated racial “equity” reason why top policymakers from the Biden Administration on down to the state level are slow walking teacher vaccinations.

    If you follow the news there is a lot of sound and fury on shows like Rachel Maddow about the low percentage of People of Color who have been vaccinated to date. Turning it into a big national scandal. When the likely reason why that is the case is because health care workers and the very elderly in this country trend white and are much whiter than the overall national average.

    Teachers are the same. Of the 4 million or so teachers in the US, I’m guessing that they are MUCH MUCH whiter than the population as a whole. And rushing another 4 million white middle class folks to the front of the line is not going to be a good look for the Biden Administration. It will make the existing racial inequity of the vaccine rollout much worse.

    No one in the Biden Administration is EVER going to admit to that. Nor is any state governor. But I gotta think it is on their minds. And so here we are, with a lot of mealy mouth BS about how teachers don’t really need to be vaccinated because we can make the schools safe. When anyone who works in public education in any school not built in the past decade knows that is absolutely not true.

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