Union leader renews push for prioritized teacher vaccinations

70% of teachers say vaccine will make them feel safer about returning to school though many having trouble scheduling a vaccination
By: | February 24, 2021
(AdobeStock/Richard Villalon)(AdobeStock/Richard Villalon)

About half of U.S. states have prioritized teacher COVID vaccinations but many educators continue to report difficulty scheduling an appointment to get their first shot, the NEA says.

The union’s president, Becky Pringle, this week urged the National Governors Association to press all of its members to move teachers to the front of the vaccination queue.

“There is nowhere that educators would rather be than in-person, working with and supporting students,” Pringle said in a letter to the association’s chair, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and its vice-chair, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“We want to be sure that students, families, and educators are able to trust that schools are the safest place in the community,” Pringle wrote.

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In the CDC’s latest guidance for reopening schools, the agency encouraged states to give teachers high priority in vaccination efforts.

And a report the agency released this week revealed that, based on COVID spread in one Georgia district, “Educators might play a central role in in-school transmission networks.”

This report also found that in-school transmission is far more likely when physical distancing and mask-wearing are not optimal. Previous research had also found that if safety measures are followed rigorously, districts can keep transmissions low even in communities where there are higher rates of infection.

Teachers ready to return

Becky Pringle, NEA president

Becky Pringle, NEA president

In a recent NEA survey of educators, 70% said getting vaccinated will make them feel safer about returning to in-person instruction.

But about the same number indicated they’d had trouble scheduling a vaccination, “in part due to state prioritization guidelines,” Pringle wrote.

“We know that with the proper mitigation practices consistently in place, schools can be safe for in-person learning,” Pringle wrote.

“We can address the issue of difficulty in access by prioritizing educators for vaccination — which will also go a long way in combating the fear many educators have for their safety and the safety of their own families upon returning to in-person learning.”

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