Vaccines for educators should spur school reopenings


Caroline Kelly, Copy Editor

*The following information as of February 2, 2021

On January 25th, Governor Newsom announced that the state of California plans to extend the COVID-19 vaccine to educators, prioritizing the reopening of schools. Teachers are members of Phase 1B: a group designated as those who are older than sixty-five years old, work in education (including child-care), and are employed in food and agriculture sectors. By making school staff eligible for vaccines, Governor Newsom would be able to fulfill his framework of “Safe Schools for All,” allowing schools to reopen with safety protocols as early as February. 

California’s distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has been inconsistent, placing an emphasis on local government health departments to take initiative and coordinate vaccination clinics. Counties with smaller populations, such as El Dorado and Alpine, have vaccinated a majority of school staff, planning to re-open schools at an earlier date than large districts. With Governor Newsom lifting the stay-at-home order, there is a risk of increases in COVID-19 cases for counties like Los Angeles, where teachers feel frustrated that businesses are taking priority over education. 

The California Teachers Association has stressed the importance of having all staff members at schools vaccinated before proceeding with in-person learning to ensure that the government avoids a “yo-yo effect” of schools reopening and closing. The organization urges that those in purple-tiered locations, including San Diego county, should stay in distance learning to ensure that both local and state governments are on the same page regarding vaccinations and safety protocols (ventilation, tracing systems, etc.). Governor Newsom has since responded, claiming the “truth” is that if schools wait for everyone to be vaccinated, there will be “no in-person instruction in the state of California.” He has offered two billion dollars in grants to elementary schools that declare that they will reopen, stressing the value of in-person education, so that students do not fall further behind.  

As other states’ research has suggested, relying completely on safety protocols and COVID-19 testing have proven to be effective methods to mitigate the spread of the virus. Based on a study of seventeen elementary schools in Wisconsin, researchers found that “During 13 weeks in the fall of 2020, there were 191 infections among staff and students — and only seven came from in-school transmission,” mitigating the worries of the California Teachers Association. It is important to note, however, the lack of financial resources for many public schools in being able to provide frequent COVID-19 testing that ensures the safety of community members.

Those between zero to fifteen years old will most likely be the final group to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, experts noting that older children will have to wait until late spring of 2021 at the earliest. For those under the age of twelve years old, Pfizer and Moderna have predicted the availability of vaccines at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. Thus, COVID-19 transmission on campus will still be a risk;  however, with the vaccination of those in Phase 1B, teacher exposure will be greatly mitigated in the near future. 


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Photo credit: Sacramento State/Andrea Price