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Educators push for vaccine prioritization as states move to reopen schools

teacher stress
Posted at 8:54 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 11:03:20-05

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study saying teachers play a central role in spreading COVID-19 in schools.

The study followed eight Georgia elementary schools and found that as coronavirus cases rose in those schools, infections per every 100,000 people in the counties where they were located tripled.

The study found that after a teacher spread the virus to a student, the student would spread it out to those at home and beyond.

To many educators, the study only reaffirms their push to get vaccinated.

“Teachers really want to be in classrooms with their students, but until they’re vaccinated, they’re going to continue to experience what I’m experiencing, which is I’m being forced away from my students,” said Megan Young, a high school English teacher.

Young works in St. Augustine, Florida, one of 17 states that have not listed teachers as a priority designation to get the vaccine while still pushing for a return to all in-person learning.

“We keep getting told that we’re superheroes, but the action of our legislators doesn’t make it feel that way,” she said.

“This is where the rubber hits the road,” added Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Governors and school districts, if you want to reopen schools, prioritize teacher vaccinations, so there is less fear out there.”

Weingarten says even though studies show that kids are less susceptible to developing complications from COVID-19, it gives teachers, who are often much older in age, anxiety, which can affect their level of engagement.

“If we want less fear out there and we really care about having in-school learning with the fullness of our hearts being out there, and where we’re not worried about bringing it back home, give us the vaccines, so that teachers and bus drivers can have those shots in the arm,” said Weingarten.

Currently, 26 states have given educators and other staff in schools priority when it comes to the vaccine, while the remaining seven have prioritized teachers based on their age or health.

For those located in those states, the vaccine can be a source of guilt.

“We have friends in other districts and they’re struggling with it because we have friends everywhere and we’re like why are you getting it and I’m not?” said Teresa Brown, a K-8 administrator in Colorado, one of the 26 states that have prioritized all teachers.

She says she received her second COVID-19 vaccine shot last week.

“It’s really difficult because you know that now I’m getting this protection and others aren’t,” she said.

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