On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris attended her first live one-on-one network interview since she took office. At the interview, the Vice President underlined the importance of prioritizing Covid-19 vaccinations for teachers. Harris did not say whether she believed the vaccinations should be a pre-requisite for re-opening schools.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued guidelines about the vaccine and has stated that teachers don’t need to get the vaccination to teach. Infectious disease experts say that schools are not a primary source of coronavirus transmission, but this statement has been facing backlash from teacher unions who oppose the reopening of schools. So far, fewer than half of the states have made teachers a priority for getting the vaccine.
Harris said that teachers were “critical to our children’s development, they should be able to teach in a safe place and expand the minds and the opportunities of our children.” She also emphasized the importance of Congress passing another Covid-19 relief package, which would ensure that schools were able to enforce necessary safety measures when they opened.
White House’s lead Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients also made a statement on Wednesday. He said that President Joe Biden and the vice president both believed that while teachers were on par with frontline workers when it came to the vaccine, they agreed with the CDC guideline that vaccinating them is “not a requirement to reopening schools.” Biden however, has pushed his administration’s goal to open as many K-8 schools as possible within the first 100 days of his presidency.
Meanwhile, the CDC has claimed that a school’s decision to reopen should be tied to the rate of infection in the community it serves. This would mean that 90 percent of schools might not be able to reopen at all. When TODAY show anchor Savannah Guthrie asked Harris if the CDC had made a mistake about its recommendation, Harris said that the issue was less about statistics and more about American students and the fact that “every day they were missing essential, critical days in their educational development.”