The National Education Association will debate whether to demand mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all students and staff returning to school in person this fall, a polarizing move that would apply to 3 million teachers.
“The NEA will call for mandatory safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for all students and staff before returning to face-to-face instruction in the fall, subject to medical exceptions in accordance with existing law,” according to the organization’s annual meeting agenda.
Federal regulators have only authorized a single vaccine, the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, for children 12 through 15. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with two shots and one shot, respectively, have been authorized for adults 18 and older. Moderna has already announced its vaccine is 100% effective in protecting children 12 through 17 against infection. Trial results also showed an efficacy of 93% after just one dose. Johnson & Johnson has also begun similar trials in children in the same age range.
The Pfizer vaccine, meanwhile, was granted emergency use authorization to be administered to children on May 10, after a study of more than 2,200 young people found that the shots were 100% efficacious and produced a “robust antibody response.”
Mandatory vaccinations for employees in certain work environments, such as some colleges and hospital systems, have been a sticking point for many who distrust the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. For instance, the New York State Nurses Association, which represents roughly 42,000 front-line healthcare workers, came out against mandatory shots “as either a condition of employment or as a state or federal mandate. … The public has legitimate concerns regarding the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of any vaccine that has been developed and processed under an Emergency Use Authorization.”
The NEA, meanwhile, said that the pandemic “respects no boundaries. We must fight for a policy that puts human life first.”
The organization will also “call for and publicize that safety measures such as social distancing, masking, and proper ventilation be mandatory for all,” a policy that falls in line with the position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency recommended that students and school staff wear masks whenever possible and maintain social distancing measures, despite the relatively low risk of severe infection among children.