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VERIFY: No, all teachers don't need to be vaccinated for schools to safely reopen

Scientists and doctors agree teachers should be given priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, but all teachers don’t need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen.
Credit: KING

SEATTLE — It is a debate that has been going on for months: Do all teachers and staff need to get a COVID-19 vaccine for schools to safely reopen for in-person learning?

While health officials believe teachers should get high priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, all teachers do not need to get the vaccine for schools to reopen.

To verify, we checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and consulted with NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. Vin Gupta.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, recently announced that while she advocates for teachers getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the data shows it is not necessary for all teachers to be vaccinated for schools to reopen.

“I would emphasize, if we have the funding to do the proper mitigation measures, we can reopen schools safely even if all of the teachers are not vaccinated,” Walensky recently said on the Rachel Maddow Show.

The CDC prioritizes two of its five essential mitigation measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in schools above the others: Universal and correct use of masks and as much physical distancing of at least 6 feet as possible.

However, because not all schools have the funding to meet all of the CDC standards, let alone the larger ticket items like improved ventilation, Gupta is pushing for prioritized vaccinations of teachers and staff, especially those at high-risk.

"The quickest way to actually get teachers and students back is just to vaccinate those who might be at the highest risk of a bad outcome if they got exposed and infected with this virus,” Gupta told KING 5. “That, to me, is actually the straightest line to restarting schools quickly and keeping them open."

The CDC said local and state health officials should consider giving teachers a higher priority for vaccine distribution, but “access to vaccination should 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.”

So, scientists and doctors agree, we should vaccinate teachers as soon as possible. However, we can verify no, all teachers and staff do not need to be vaccinated to safely reopen schools.