As we get further away from the height of the pandemic, there is a desire to get back to “normal” in the school system. And though we have quickly started to romanticize the public education mess that we had before, it would be hard to argue that coronavirus has not made life more difficult. This is one of the reasons that both the current and previous administrations thought teachers should be near the front of the line when vaccines came available. That time has arrived. The kink in the plan? Not everyone wants the vaccine.
This leaves schools in a precarious position. What matters more? The stability of a COVID-free building, or the individual desires of the teacher?
“To vax or not to vax?” is not a new argument. People have certainly debated on this issue before. COVID-19 has been even more controversial because even people who would not typically describe themselves as anti-vaxxers have misgivings about the speed at which a COVID-19 vaccine became available.
Before we go any further, it is important to state what this post is not. It is not an anti-vaccination support piece. Science has already debunked and refuted all the conspiracy theories around this and for that matter most of the other vaccines. It is understandable why some people would be cautious of “drinking the Kool-Aid” too fast, but for the most part, vaccines have a good track record.
What this piece is exploring is what level a school can or should go to in order to get other people on board.
It is not hard to understand why a school would want to mandate the vaccine for teachers. There are the obvious medical benefits and liability concerns, but there are also the operational benefits. It is extremely hard for many schools to replace a teacher for two weeks when they contract COVID-19. Even just the constant exposure scares weigh on a school’s operational capacity. Additionally, coronavirus danger has been a huge sticking point for teachers and particularly teachers’ unions. The vaccine takes that issue off the table to some degree.
On the flip side, if a teacher doesn’t want to take the vaccine, it seems like they should be able to decline. Objection-based exemptions are already common in the vaccine world. Pre-COVID vaccine, there was the risk of spreading it to others, and there still is post-vaccine. It is objectively true that if everyone got vaccinated the pandemic would end much faster.
There is certainly precedent for requiring the vaccine. Many jobs require certain vaccinations as a condition of employment. With that being said, it seems unlikely that it will come to this. As any teacher who wanted the vaccine will tell you, it was extraordinarily difficult to schedule a vaccine shot. Teachers have signed up for the shots in droves and because of this, school districts are not feeling the need to force anyone’s hand especially if the operational capacity is an issue, but it is still a conversation worth having because it could come to that.
What do you think? Should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory for teachers?