Vaccinations for Teachers: mandatory or optional?

Abby Morado, staff writer

Nearly one year ago, on January 30, 2020, the infectious Coronavirus was identified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concernー reporting 7818 cases globally from the World Health Organization (WHO). Due to COVID-19 cases in America slowly rising in March of 2020, schools around the nation successively shut down and began online schooling. With the new year arriving, many schools in the United States plan to continue in-school sessions, if they haven’t already. Despite the recent release of vaccines being reserved for healthcare workers and those who live in residential facilities, teachers are included in the next phase that should receive the immunization. 

Although the COVID-19 cases have gone down within the nation recently, over 218,000 citizens are still currently confirmed infected. The New York Times informs us that there have been over 95 million cases, and exceeding 2 million fatalities throughout the duration of the pandemic. In order to eliminate the growth of the virus, just last month on December 14, 2020, the first Coronavirus vaccine was given to an ICU nurse by the name of Sandra Lindsey, in New York City. Since then, over 1 million other frontline and medical workers have followed in Lindsey’s footsteps and received the shot. 

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA), states that the inoculation will be allowed to those 16 years of age and up, and rejects those who have suffered from previous allergic reactions to vaccinations or containing ingredients. The Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) has released a statement on January 11, 2021, enlightening the public of potential side-effects post-vaccine; common cold-symptoms like fever, headache and chills along with swelling and pain from the injection wound. 

Regrading the education system in following months, CNN reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated, “The idea of vaccinating teachers is very high up in the priority, as well as doing surveillance in the schools so that you can get a good feel for the penetration of infection.” 

Dr. Fauci also remarked that if schools were considering to reopen, their states should have low positivity rates, around 5%, and follow strict distancing orders to keep everyone safe. Additionally, he suggested that states with higher numbers of positive cases wait until they reach a green zone. 

Career Exploration/Preparation & Food Fundamentals teacher at Joliet West High School, Michelle O’Malley, believes that in order to continue teaching in-person, educators should be required to receive the shot. She claims, “I thought about people that have religious concerns or reasonable health concerns about the vaccine, but if they were allowed to be excused from the vaccine they could still be a health risk…It is so important to respect everyone’s personal choices about receiving the vaccine – but those who chose not to get vaccinated, for whatever reason, cannot be allowed to risk the health of all of those who are in the building, and the families those people go home to.” 

On the other hand, some individuals believe that the virus should be optional for teachers to return. Angela Thomas, parent of a Joliet West student shared that she doesn’t think any one person should be forced to be vaccinated before enrolling back in physical session, but rather just given the option to if they desire. 

With cases of the potentially fatal disease still soaring in America, there is still a ways to go for ending the virus and what’s to come for the future of schools in 2021.