Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that vaccinating all teachers against Covid-19 before reopening schools is "non-workable," wading into an issue that has taken center stage for the Biden administration amid the ongoing pandemic.
"If you are going to say that every single teacher needs to be vaccinated before you get back to school, I believe quite frankly that’s a non-workable situation," Fauci told "CBS This Morning."
Fauci’s assessment on Wednesday of vaccination plans for teachers laid down a marker that others in the Biden administration have thus far been unwilling to match amid a heated debate over reopening schools. On CNN Wednesday morning, Symone Sanders, spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, repeatedly declined to answer directly whether teacher vaccinations are necessary to reopen schools, insisting instead that teachers should be “prioritized" for vaccination.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, agreed Wednesday that teachers should “absolutely” be prioritized among essential workers in vaccination efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines say that getting teachers vaccinated offers an “additional layer of protection” but that vaccinations for teachers shouldn’t be required for reopening in-person learning. Instead, the CDC’s guidelines for schools have emphasized social distancing and masking.
“You should try to get as many teachers as you possibly can vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can,” Fauci said. “But to make it a sine qua non that you don’t open a school until every teacher is vaccinated, I think is not workable, and probably most of the teachers would agree with that … You don’t want to essentially have nobody in school until all the teachers get vaccinated.”
Earlier this month, CDC director Rochelle Walensky echoed Fauci’s take that teachers don’t need to be vaccinated for reopening safely. After Walensky’s remarks, before the CDC’s guidelines were released, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Walensky was speaking “in her personal capacity.”
CNN’s John Berman pressed Sanders on the issue Wednesday morning.
“I don’t understand why it’s a hard question to answer. It may be that you want every teacher to be vaccinated. It may be the answer is, yeah, teachers should, if they can, be vaccinated before they return to school, but it’s not necessary,” Berman said after Sanders didn’t directly answer his question.
“The president has been clear, the Vice President has been clear, and I think I was really clear just now. It is the administration’s position, the President and Vice President believe that teachers should be prioritized for vaccinations,” Sanders responded.
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