As many teacher’s unions around the country continue to hold the school reopening debate hostage, one of their most common demands has been that every teacher should be vaccinated before they return to in-person instruction. Despite the fact that the CDC has not listed vaccinating teachers as a condition for reopening the schools, politicians (primarily Democrats) have been caving in and moving teachers up to the top of the vaccination priority list. That includes President Biden, who said this week that every teacher, school staff member and childcare worker should receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of the month.
So are we on the way to reopening the schools? Nobody knows, at least in some of the larger school districts. That’s because they aren’t able to track how many teachers have actually been vaccinated thus far and how many remain without any immunity. Did nobody think to bring this question up before we launched this project? (Associated Press)
The national rush to vaccinate teachers in hopes of soon reopening pandemic-shuttered schools is running into one basic problem: Almost no one knows how many are getting the shots, or refusing to get them.
States and many districts have not been keeping track of school employee vaccinations, even as the U.S. prioritizes teachers nationwide. Vaccines are not required for educators to return to school buildings, but the absence of data complicates efforts to address parents’ concerns about health risk levels and some teachers unions’ calls for widespread vaccinations as a condition of reopening schools.
The number of school staff members receiving vaccinations — and refusal rates — are unclear in several large districts where teachers were prioritized, including Las Vegas, Chicago and Louisville, Kentucky.
To a certain extent, I can almost have a bit of sympathy for the organizers of the pods around the country on this issue. All of them are gathering some personal data and contact tracing information from the people who schedule a vaccination, but there are limits on how much information you can collect. Asking people’s occupations simply wasn’t a priority when the vaccines began rolling out. Adding that field into the forms at this stage wouldn’t give us a complete picture because so many people have already gotten a jab.
But with that said, couldn’t we have made an exception in the case of teachers? Some districts are talking about privacy concerns if the teachers’ information is recorded and reported, but they wouldn’t need to release names. All we would need to know is the total numbers in each district.
Some states have asked the school districts to gather the information themselves and report it, but that doesn’t seem to be working either. In New York, Andrew Cuomo has directed the individual school districts to collect the information and send it up to the state Health Department. But at least thus far, few have been able to collect and confirm the numbers. In the Los Angeles Unified School District (one of the largest in the nation), they are using an online app that allows teachers to register for vaccinations. But amazingly, the app doesn’t generate totals among applicants by occupation. Isn’t that something that could be fixed in a software update done by virtually any college student these days?
Some districts have done better than others, but are still unable to solve this mystery. The Jefferson County Public Schools district in Kentucky reported that all teachers who wanted a vaccination had received one by the middle of last month and they are currently working to reopen the schools. But when asked how many of the teachers that included they were unable to say. Privacy issues were once again raised as the primary concern. At the other end of the spectrum are places like the Chicago Public School system. You’ll recall that they nearly went on strike last month, insisting on vaccinations before their teachers returned to the classroom. But as of now, they can’t say how many teachers have been vaccinated or how many declined to get a shot.
Once again we have reached yet another impasse on the road back to normalcy. And yet again the problem has nothing to do with a lack of vaccine doses. This issue is festering due to poor administration and a lack of planning or foresight on the part of state and municipal governments, particularly in our larger cities. We’ve been battling the novel coronavirus and dealing with closed schools for more than a year now. Everyone knew that the schools were going to have to reopen sooner or later and that these challenges would be facing us. And yet nobody thought to have a plan in place to deal with them. This is pretty pathetic if you ask me.