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Teachers Union President Backs Vaccine Mandates For Educators—But Biden Administration Declines To Go That Far

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 8, 2021


American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said Sunday she now supports mandated vaccines for teachers after the AFT previously said they should be voluntary—but while Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona supported Weingarten’s push for vaccinations he declined to say the Biden administration explicitly supports a mandate.

Key Facts

Weingarten said on Meet the Press the AFT will “revisit and…reconsider” its policy on vaccinations for teachers in light of the “alarming” spread of Covid-19, noting that while the organization had previously opposed a mandate, “The circumstances have changed.”

Weingarten personally backed a mandate “as a matter of personal conscience” because vaccination is a “community responsibility,” saying she thinks teachers “need to be working with our employers…on vaccine mandates” and noting it “weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated.”

Weingarten noted there are “significant” medical and religious exemptions to vaccination and “we have to honor those,” suggesting she would back a policy where teachers are allowed to be unvaccinated if they’re tested weekly for Covid-19 over a blanket vaccine mandate.

Asked about vaccine mandates for teachers, Cardona said on CBS’ Face the Nation that he “feel[s] strongly” that educators eligible for vaccination should get the shot and touted efforts he and the Biden administration has undertaken to encourage vaccines among teachers, but declined to endorse the policy.

When asked about Weingarten’s push for teachers to get vaccinated, Cardona said her call is “helpful,” adding, “Quite frankly, I think we recognize as educators across the country that we’re going to get farther if we work together.”

Big Number

90%. That’s the percentage of teachers in the AFT who are vaccinated against Covid-19, Weingarten said Sunday, noting teachers are “probably the most vaccinated profession right now.”

Crucial Quote

“Our students have suffered enough,” Cardona said Sunday. “It’s time for all of us to do our part to keep our students and staff safe.”

Key Background

Covid-19 protocols in schools have become a growing issue in recent weeks as the Delta variant has taken hold across the country, leaving children particularly vulnerable as kids under 12 remain ineligible for vaccination. Children made up 19% of weekly Covid-19 cases from July 22-29 with 71,726 cases, according to American Academy of Pediatrics data cited by NBC. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted Sunday on Face the Nation that infections in schools have a much wider spread than in other areas, saying that while on average approximately 2.5 close contacts have to quarantine after an exposure to Covid-19, in school settings the number of close contacts is “more like 18 to one.” In addition to vaccine mandates, mask-wearing in schools has also become a particular matter of contention, particularly as some states like Florida, Texas and Arkansas have banned school districts from imposing their own mandates entirely. “While I understand the argument around not wanting to wear masks because we’re fatigued…without question, students’ safety and staff safety come first,” Cardona said Sunday, saying policies that prohibit schools from requiring masks “are going to hurt students.”


While Cardona declined to take a position on teacher mandates Sunday, other federal government officials were more overtly supportive of vaccine mandates. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, said Sunday he “strongly support[s]” local vaccine mandates, and National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins similarly backed the requirements. “I think we ought to use every public health tool we can when people are dying,” Collins said on ABC.

Further Reading

Most Parents Want Mask Mandates—But Not Vaccine Requirements—In Schools As Delta Variant Spreads, Poll Finds (Forbes)

NIH Director: Some Evidence Child Hospitalizations Increasing And Kids ‘More Seriously Ill,’ But U.S. Lacking ‘Rigorous Data’ (Forbes)

Schools Are Defying State Governments And Imposing Their Own Mask Mandates (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus


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