Should teachers get vaccinated before schools reopen? 59% Americans say it's vital to fight Covid-19: Survey

61% also believe that students falling behind academically should be a top consideration in school reopening


                            Should teachers get vaccinated before schools reopen? 59% Americans say it's vital to fight Covid-19: Survey
About 40% suggest schools should reopen as soon as possible (Getty Images)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued new guidelines detailing strategies for how schools can open safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The recommendations, which include wearing masks, physical distancing, handwashing, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, increasing ventilation and contact tracing when someone in the school tests positive for the virus, offer some clarity about a contentious topic. However, a majority of people in the US say that teachers must get vaccinated before reopening schools.

This is according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, which reveals that 59% of Americans say K-12 schools that are not currently open for in-person instruction should wait to reopen until all teachers who want the Covid-19 vaccine have received it. About 40% suggest these schools should reopen as soon as possible, even if many teachers who want the vaccine have not received it. The results come close on the heels of a CDC analysis, which warns that teachers may play a central role in Covid-19 transmission in schools. 

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Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction, says the CDC (Getty Images)

In CDC’s advisory for reopening schools safely, vaccines are not among the ‘key’ strategies but are listed as ‘additional’ measures for Covid-19 prevention in schools. “In order to support safe school reopening, state, territorial, local, and tribal officials should consider giving high priority to teachers in early phases of vaccine distribution. Access to vaccination should nevertheless not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. Even after teachers and staff are vaccinated, schools need to continue mitigation measures for the foreseeable future, including requiring masks in schools and physical distancing,” recommends the agency.

The divide over the issue of vaccination, meanwhile, varies among racial and ethnic groups, according to Pew. An estimated 80% of Black, 69% of Hispanic and 72% of Asian (72%) adults believe that schools should not reopen until teachers get vaccinated. In comparison, 51% of White adults feel schools should wait until teachers receive the shot. “While two-thirds of lower-income adults and 57% of those with middle incomes say schools should wait to reopen, upper-income adults are more divided; 52% say schools should wait until all teachers receive the vaccine and 48% say schools should reopen as soon as possible,” write authors.

Survey results (Pew Research Center)

Americans are divided along political lines too, with 79% of Democrats saying schools should wait to reopen until all teachers who want the coronavirus vaccine have got the shot. “In contrast, about two-thirds of Republicans (65%) say schools should reopen as soon as possible, even if many teachers who want the vaccine haven’t received it,” state findings.

Smaller shares now say the health risk to teachers or students should be given a lot of consideration, note researchers. “The shares saying schools should give a lot of consideration to the risk to teachers (48%) or students (45%) of getting or spreading the coronavirus are both down from about six-in-ten who said in July that each should be a major factor in decisions about reopening,” emphasizes the report.

Black adults are more likely than White adults to say that the risks to teachers and students of getting or spreading coronavirus must be given adequate consideration in deciding whether to reopen schools (Getty images)

Black, Hispanic and Asian adults are more likely than White adults to say that the risks to teachers and students of getting or spreading coronavirus must be given adequate consideration in deciding whether to reopen schools for in-person instruction, with Black adults especially likely to say that. Lower-income adults are also more likely than those with middle or upper incomes to say the same, as do Democrats compared with Republicans. These findings are largely unchanged from when Pew conducted the survey last July.

In August last year, Pew found that Americans have mixed views about whether K-12 schools in their area should offer in-person instruction, online instruction or a combination of both as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies across much of the country. The latest survey indicates that more US adults now believe that schools should consider the possibility that students will fall behind academically without in-person instruction when deciding whether to reopen. 

Survey results (Pew Research Center)

An estimated 61% of Americans think students falling behind academically should be a top consideration in school reopening; this number stood at 48% in July 2020. White (65%) and Hispanic (60%) adults are more likely than Black (49%) adults to point to concerns about students’ academic progress as factors should be given a lot of consideration when schools decide when to reopen. 

About 54% point to the possibility that students’ emotional well-being will be negatively impacted if they do not attend school in person as a factor that should be given a lot of consideration in decisions about reopening. “White adults (58%) are also more likely than Black adults (44%) to say the possibility that students’ emotional well-being will be negatively impacted if they don’t attend school in person should be a major factor; 53% of Hispanic adults say this,” the team concludes. 

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