“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” Walensky said during a press briefing.

She added that while a CDC advisory committee has put teachers in the “1B” category for getting vaccines — the second priority group for vaccination — “I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that … safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”

The comments come as a fierce debate plays out over returning students to in-person learning.