The National Education Association announced Thursday that it is in favor of requiring COVID-19 vaccination for teachers or frequent testing in lieu of receiving the shot. The NEA is the largest teachers union in the country, holding a membership of 3 million.
“As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates, it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe, and they must be coupled with other proven mitigation strategies,” NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement.
She added that appropriate accommodations must be made for employees receiving the vaccine including paid leave.
Pringle noted that nearly 90 percent of NEA members reported being fully vaccinated, but she also expressed support for regular COVID-19 testing “for those not yet vaccinated or those for whom vaccination is not medically appropriate or effective.”
“We believe that such vaccine requirements and accommodations are an appropriate, responsible, and necessary step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our students,” she said.
As the rate of COVID cases continues to rise nationwide, state and local officials are attempting to stem the tide of infections by reinstituting mask mandates and mulling vaccination requirements for certain employees.
Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, said her organization still believes “education and voluntary adoption” are the best ways to increase vaccination rates, but the AFT wants to work with employers to implement vaccine policies.
“We believe that workplace policies should be done with working people not to them. In fact, several of our affiliates have already worked with elected officials, school districts and other employers on vaccine or test policies,” Weingarten said in a statement. “This once-in-a-generation pandemic calls for us to work together to keep people safe and put COVID-19 behind us.”