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The Ethics of Vaccinating Teachers—and Keeping Schools Closed

Educators have lobbied to be prioritized for inoculation, but many also want to continue remote or hybrid learning. What does that mean for deprioritized groups?

WIRED

ON JANUARY 8, when New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that at the present rate it would take 14 weeks to vaccinate the first two priority groups, I immediately opened my calendar. Teachers and education workers are in the second group, so by mid-April, I figured, my children’s schools would finally open full-time.

Parents throughout the country have been making similar calculations. Like in New York, teachers in a majority of states have been bumped to near the front of the Covid-19 vaccine line, ahead of most other people, including millions who are at a higher risk of illness and death than many teachers. From Tennessee to Illinois to New Jersey, teachers’ unions around the country vigorously advocated for this privileged position. “We cannot safely and fully return to face-to-face instruction without putting our public school workers at the top of the priority list,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association. A letter signed by 11 education associations, including the National Educational Association and American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked for school personnel to have “priority access” to vaccinations in order to “fully reopen our school buildings.”

These pleas always emphasize the “importance of fully reopening” schools. Yet the specifics of this implicit agreement have been, at best, left deliberately vague—and, at worst, in the view of bioethicists and others, an unfulfilled quid pro quo.

READ MORE AT WIRED

PHOTO CREDIT: Alliance for Excellent Education

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