Mandatory vaccinations a good idea for teachers, union leader says

American Federation of Teachers president says her views have changed as COVID-19 cases have spiked nationwide.


National News

August 9, 2021 - 9:27 AM

Teachers should be required to get COVID-19 vaccines, the head of the American Federation of Teachers said Sunday.

The union currently favors vaccinations on a voluntary basis, but its president Randi Weingarten said her views have changed as COVID-19 case numbers have spiked nationwide. She’ll urge the group to revisit its stance when she meets with other leaders this week.

“As a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers, not opposing them, on vaccine mandates,” Weingarten told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The delta variants are alarming. And the spread is alarming,” she continued. “Vaccines are the single most important way of dealing with COVID.”

The comments came as the U.S. is seeing about 100,000 new COVID cases per day, a level not seen in months.

About half the country has been vaccinated, according to government stats, though children under 12 cannot yet get jabbed. Ninety percent of American Federation of Teachers members have been vaccinated, according to Weingarten.

Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York Daily News/TNS)

But the age limit on vaccines “weighs really heavily on me,” she said.

AFT is the second-biggest teacher union in the country, behind the National Education Association. NEA President Becky Pringle said last week teachers who can’t get vaccinated should be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis, instead.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended mandatory mask usage for students and teachers doing in-person learning in the fall, drawing pushback from the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, among others.

The country is “at a fork in the road” on going back to school safely, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Sunday.

“You’re either going to help students be in school in-person and keep them safe, or the decisions you make are going to hurt students,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that he’s been urging governors to build consensus on the issue.

Cardona’s comments echoed President Biden’s recent assertion that local leaders should “get out of the way” if they won’t help.

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