Utah Education Association Reacts To Calls For Teacher Vaccine Mandates

Aug 9, 2021, 6:27 PM | Updated: 6:28 pm
FILE - Gov. Cox said even though case counts are dropping it's important that residents keep gettin...
FILE - Gov. Cox said even though case counts are dropping it's important that residents keep getting fully vaccinated with booster shots. (KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — As the debate over wearing masks in schools continues, there’s also a new nationwide debate of whether teachers should be mandated to get the vaccine to protect young children who are not eligible to get the shot.

KSL-TV spoke with Utah’s largest teachers’ union about it and what their concerns are for the upcoming school year.

“The circumstances of the delta variant have changed dramatically,” said Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association.

Just as school’s about to start, Matthews said there’s a lot of anxiety.

“What I’m hearing from teachers across the state is this level of uncertainty, but in particular, how much more can we do? Last year was really hard,” she said.

She worries some prevention tools are being limited.

“In areas where the transmission is high and the vaccination level is low, we need to be giving all of the tools possible to keep our kids safe,” said Matthews.

In response to nationwide calls for a vaccine mandate for teachers, she said her national organization stops short of calling for a mandate.

“We support vaccinations fully, but also respect the individual complexities of our educators,” she said.

Utah law prohibits government agencies, including public schools, from requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The law only applies to vaccines with emergency-use authorization.

Once the vaccines have full FDA approval, the ban no longer applies.

However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Spendlove, (R-Sandy), told KSL-TV that any vaccine mandate in the state would need to come from the Utah Department of Health.

Meanwhile, the national debate continues as the country’s second-largest teachers’ union now says it supports a vaccine mandate for educators.

“But I do think that the circumstances have changed and that vaccination is a community responsibility, and it weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

“The likelihood of a child getting serious disease compared to an elderly person, or someone with an underlying condition, is absolutely less, but less doesn’t mean zero,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “And there are a lot of children now — all you need to do is do a survey of the pediatric hospitals throughout the country, and you’re seeing a considerable number of young people who are not only infected, but who are seriously ill.”

Also on NBC’s Meet the Press, Fauci said children who can’t be vaccinated need to be surrounded by “a shield of vaccinated people.”

“The numbers compared to the elderly are less, but that’s a false comparison,” he said. “These kids are getting sick. We really got to make sure we protect them.”

Fauci also said he’s hopeful the COVID-19 vaccines will be given full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks.

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Utah Education Association Reacts To Calls For Teacher Vaccine Mandates