Teachers and other school staff should be required to vaccinate for COVID-19 before returning to school

January 21, 2021 — by Apurva Chakravarthy and Allen Luo

Graphic by Joann Zhang

With the beginning of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines and an end to the pandemic in sight, many schools have started preparing for the eventual return back to in-person school. Numerous people, including President Joe Biden, have urged the country to allow teachers to be one of the first to receive the vaccine so that schools can reopen. 

Still, much of this decision remains up to individual school districts. With this, schools now must determine whether they should require teachers and other staff to receive the vaccine before returning. 

But the answer is obvious: It is essential that school employees receive the vaccine before returning to in-person schooling to ensure the safest environment possible, for both themselves and their students.

The idea of teachers being required to be vaccinated before working is not radical. Currently, teachers are required to get a tuberculosis vaccine once every four years. It would not be out of the ordinary to require teachers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

In general, teachers are at more of a risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms because of their age. According to the Center for Disease Control, the chances of adults aged 30 years and older being hospitalized from COVID-19 are at least double the chances for those aged 18 to 29, and the chances for death are at least four times greater. 

Many students may not show any symptoms if they have COVID-19. Since teachers will be in contact with multiple groups of students for all their classes, they will be at an even higher risk of contracting the virus without even knowing it. 

This could contribute to another outbreak, and lockdown procedures would have to resume. Requiring teachers to have taken the vaccine would greatly minimize the chances of an outbreak occurring within the school community.

Even with this, many misconceptions about life after vaccines have been construed. Even after teachers are vaccinated, masks and social distancing will likely still be enforced until hospital and transmission rates are much lower. If we go back to in-person this August, we are likely going to have a school set-up similar to the one that juniors and seniors saw during the PSAT and SAT.

In addition, it still takes a few weeks to provide immunity after the second dose of the vaccine has been administered. Therefore, planning for teachers to take the vaccine over the summer will ensure that they are safe and immune by the time school starts in August.

 Ultimately, a requirement like this would also provide a sense of security for teachers, students and parents alike, making the transition from online to in-person school easier. Taking the vaccine is essentially the only certain way to ensure that there is little to no risk of contracting the virus, as other methods, such as mandatory testing every few weeks, are physically and financially less viable.

This pandemic has been happening for nearly a year now, and it is safe to say that almost all Americans are ready to return to normalcy. That normalcy begins with opening schools back up for students to learn at their full potential. 

For the safety of all people, it is imperative that all teachers and other school staff be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine before returning.

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