As employers across the United States debate vaccine requirements, the nation’s largest teachers’ union is weighing in.
The National Education Association (NEA) issued a statement on Thursday backing the use of FDA-authorized vaccines for all public school educators.
The NEA said it has strived to follow the science throughout the pandemic, and that the science on the vaccines is clear: "They have proven to be enormously effective in fending off infection and, in ‘breakthrough’ cases, preventing serious illness."
"Evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines, combined with other safety measures are the most powerful weapon we have against the pandemic," NEA President Becky Pringle said. "We believe that such vaccine requirements and accommodations are an appropriate, responsible, and necessary step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our students."
The U.S. is in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 cases that have been largely driven by the more infectious delta variant. Like previous administrations, the White House has rejected the idea of a federal vaccine mandate.
But the Biden administration has been supportive of employers who require proof of vaccination from their workers. Companies like Facebook, Google and United Airlines are among those mandating the COVID vaccine.
Many entities have required vaccination but also gave the option for unvaccinated persons to be frequently tested — a move the NEA expressed support for.
COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Moscow, Idaho. (Photo by: Don and Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
"We also support regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of vaccination for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective," Pringle said. "We believe that such vaccine requirements and accommodations are an appropriate, responsible, and necessary step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our students.
Pringle said 90% of NEA’s 3 million members have already been vaccinated. But she encouraged schools to provide appropriate employee accommodations, such as paid leave and readily available vaccination sites, to those who are not yet inoculated. She called employee input "critical."
"In order to ensure that students and educators are able to enjoy safe, uninterrupted, in-person education, educators must have a voice in how vaccine requirements are implemented," Pringle said. "Educators must also continue to play an active role in developing other mitigation systems—including testing, tracing, masking, distancing, hand washing, ventilation, cleaning, and disinfection."
This story was reported from Atlanta.