As the nation struggles with spikes in the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, and schools, colleges, and universities prepare for the 2021-22 school year, National Education Association President Becky Pringle announced on Thursday that NEA supports mandatory vaccination or regular COVID testing for all U.S. public school educators.
From the beginning of the pandemic, NEA has followed the science in protecting students, educators, and their families. On the vaccines, the science is clear: They have proven to be enormously effective in fending off infection and, in “breakthrough” cases, preventing serious illness.
“Evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines, combined with other safety measures are the most powerful weapon we have against the pandemic,” Pringle said. “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.”
Safety for students, school staff, and their families has always been the NEA’s top priority. Educators, Pringle added, believe in the efficacy and safety of the available FDA-approved vaccines. According to an NEA survey, around 90 percent of its members report they are fully vaccinated with overwhelming numbers saying the vaccine has made them feel safer about working in-person in their school building.
Pringle also announced on Thursday that NEA supports regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of vaccination for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective. Pringle added that schools must provide appropriate accommodations forl staff, and paid leave and readily available sites should be available for vaccinations. “Employee input, including collective bargaining where applicable, is critical,” she said.
Educator Voice Critical
This week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will require its teachers and school employees in both public and private schools to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or be tested for the virus weekly – the first state in the nation to issue such a mandate.
The 310,000-member California Teachers Association (CTA) immediately voiced its support for Newsom’s decision. “Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd.
As critical as vaccinations are in stopping the spread of the virus, proven mitigation strategies must continue to be prioritized. Educators across the nation have been steadfast in their commitment to protect everyone who walks through a school’s doors. These measures include requiring masks in all indoor public settings, conducting regular screening testing, and ensuring adequate ventilation, handwashing, and cleaning.
The nation must continue to listen to educator input and expertise to ensure that everyone can return to school safely, Pringle said.
“In addition to their ongoing role in developing mitigation strategies, educators must have a voice in how vaccine requirements are implemented.”