Shouldn’t we be trying to vaccinate teachers to get schools back to in-person learning?

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Photo Credit: Mrs. Danielle Allen

With phase 1b just starting in New Jersey, many are waiting for their turn to possibly get vaccinated for COVID-19. Governor Murphy says teachers “are on deck,” but how much longer will they have to wait?

By: Jackie Poznanski, Editor

School and public health officials are responsible to answer a host of questions in allocating the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, students fear the possibility of an ultimatum that decides whether they can return to school. Therefore the uprising question; could schools mandate the COVID-19 vaccine? And when will teachers be in line to receive the vaccination?

Biden’s call for action

In President-elect Biden’s first 100 days in office, he plans to sign an executive order to reopen schools. Considering a full return to school, Biden declares for all Americans to wear masks for 100 days while he would distribute at least 100 million vaccines during this period.

“It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school,” Biden said. “If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators, and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”

Eligibility

As states regulate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, New Jersey has made school officials wonder. Currently, healthcare personal, long-term care residents and staff, first responders, and individuals at high risk are eligible for vaccination. While many of these professions need the vaccine to provide communal support. Why are smokers prioritized over teachers? Some of those who have been considered high risk are smokers and severe obesity.

Teachers are exposed to over 60 students a day in a normal school day, however, smokers choose to smoke and weaken their immune system. How is fair to allow people with fixable health “conditions” to be eligible for the vaccine over school teachers? Many people consider school teachers first responders because they are essential to society and the upcoming generations.

New Jersey educators are currently in Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination program. That group includes teachers, first responders, food service workers, day care employees and public transit workers. Although phase 1b has begun it is only for police, fire personnel, and first responders. With over 100,000 teachers in New Jersey many are asking what is the hold up and how much longer do we have to wait given that states like New York prioritized teachers getting the vaccine?

Dr. Suzanne M. Simkovich, M.D., M.S., Intensivist (taking care of patients only in the intensive care unit) at Medstar Health, Physician Investigator at Medstar Health Research Institute and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University, stated, “Younger age groups are essential workers and needed in the community to keep society moving (i.e. teachers, grocery workers, police, firemen, social workers, repairmen). I favor vaccinating essential workers in the next round as we need these people for society to continue to function.”

Should students/ teachers get their hopes up?

The questions continue to unfold and it can be hard for students and teachers to have hope. Going into the second semester as a junior in high school, I can confidently say that I don’t believe we will go back to regular school this year. There are so many “ifs” that can alter the government and administrators’ decisions.

For instance, if the vaccine is recommended for those of 16-18 years or older. How will it be safe to remove masks if not everyone needs the vaccination? Will only juniors, seniors, and staff need to receive the vaccine? How will the freshman and sophomore students be able to roam the same halls as someone whose 16-18? Will parents feel it is safe for their child to return to school without a mask?

Dr. Simkovich also stated, “At this time, studies have not been conducted in children and high school students to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. We do not have a reason to believe the vaccine will not be safe and effective in children and high school students..”

Since the media and government successfully created mass hysteria among the American people, citizens won’t know how to act. For almost an entire year people have dissected every inch of their lives, will be told to go back to “normal.” How will this affect people’s mental health and trust in today’s government? Will they love them? Or will they blame them for negatively impacting their life? Therefore the uprising questions remain. Could schools mandate the COVID-19 vaccine? The question that will remain unknown. When will teachers get their turn to be vaccinated soon? Hopefully that will be answered in the weeks to come.