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CDC director says vaccinated teachers not a ‘prerequisite’ for schools to reopen

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The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, reiterated Sunday that she doesn’t believe all teachers need COVID-19 vaccines before returning to classrooms.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Walensky was asked about concerns from teachers about returning to in-person learning, especially given that around 25 percent teachers are elderly or have comorbidities that could contribute to more severe infections.

“I’m a strong advocate of teachers receiving their vaccinations, but we don’t believe it’s a prerequisite for reopening schools,” Walensky said, adding that CDC guidance stipulated that states should allow those at higher risk of serious COVID-19 infections to remain home for virtual learning until they can be vaccinated.

“We have in the guidance clear language that specifies that teachers that are at higher risk…teachers and students that are higher risk, and their families, should have options for virtual activities, virtual learning, virtual teaching,” she said.

Walensky went on to point out that teachers sit in the “1B” vaccination priority group, meaning that they are prioritized at the same level as seniors over the age of 75 for getting the vaccine. That group sits just behind first responders in the CDC’s vaccine priority list.

The CDC director’s comments come as her agency has published data indicating that there is “little evidence” of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in schools where proper masking and social distancing guidelines are followed.

The Biden administration heeded calls from teachers unions to prioritize educators for the vaccine, who argued that many of their members never stopped teaching from the classroom and have been at high risk of contracting the virus for months.

“Educators are no different [from other front-line workers], and educators need to be prioritized, not only so that we can get safely back to in-person learning as quickly as possible, but so we can see students and thus, their families, safe as well,” Kim Anderson, head of the National Education Association, told Newsweek.

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