Teachers and school staff hold jobs critical to the continued functioning of society and are at potential occupational risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. State, territorial, local and tribal (STLT) officials should consider giving high priority to teachers in early phases of vaccine distribution. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that frontline essential workers, including those who work in the education sector (teachers and school staff), be prioritized for vaccine allocation in phase 1b, following health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities (phase 1a). Vaccinating teachers and school staff can be considered one layer of mitigation and protection for staff and students. Strategies to minimize barriers to accessing vaccination for teachers and other frontline essential workers, such as vaccine clinics at or close to the place of work, are optimal. Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. Even after teachers and staff are vaccinated, schools need to continue mitigation measures for the foreseeable future, including requiring masks in schools and physical distancing.
The following statement was issued to the media today by MTA President Merrie Najimy:
It is gratifying that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance continues to emphasize that vaccinating school staff is an important way to mitigate the risks of in-person learning. Under the CDC’s guidance, school staff would already be eligible for vaccination in Massachusetts, as they are in more than half of all states. We have submitted our own union-created plan to the Department of Public Health that would facilitate the rapid vaccination of school staff by firefighters and EMTs in their own communities.
While today’s updated CDC guidance doesn’t address higher education, our plan does, calling for higher education employees to be vaccinated at the same time as school employees. Massachusetts should join the 32 other states that already do that.
We are pleased that the CDC continues to recommend that schools follow the now-familiar safety protocols, including good ventilation, distancing and masking. And we agree with the CDC that community transmission rates are an important factor that school districts must take into consideration in their reopening plans.
Unions are playing an important role in making pandemic education work, whether remote, hybrid or fully in person. We have a mandate to make sure our schools are safe for our members and their students. We have been a driving force behind making sure that school districts make the necessary repairs to ventilation systems and implement other safety measures.
Teachers and other school employees want nothing more than to resume or increase in-person learning. We also respect the wishes of so many parents, especially in communities of color, to keep their children home because of their concerns about the risks. If Massachusetts reduces COVID-19 cases by prioritizing public education through responsible practices, we are hopeful that more parents and staff will feel safe — and be safe — as the number of students returning to our school buildings increases.
FROM TODAY’S CDC GUIDANCE: