A Virginia teachers' union says students should not return to the classroom until they all receive a COVID-19 vaccine—a threshold that may be impossible to reach given the FDA's current age restrictions for available vaccines.
During a Fairfax County Public Schools board meeting, the president of the district teachers' union said students should receive the COVID-19 vaccination before full-time, in-person instruction resumes. Many of the school district's students, however, are unable to receive the vaccine—Pfizer's vaccine is only authorized for individuals over the age of 16, and Moderna's is only available to those over 18.
"The timeline and return to in-person instruction must reflect that we wait for the second dose to be effective," union president Kimberly Adams said at a Thursday meeting. "Concerns also remain that students will not be vaccinated before they return to school. This will require that we maintain the hybrid model and continue social distancing, masking, and all other mitigation strategies."
Although studies show that in-school transmission of COVID-19 is "extremely rare," teachers' unions across the United States have opposed going back to the classroom. In recent weeks, some public officials have changed their tune on in-class instruction—Virginia governor Ralph Northam said last week that schools could operate safely.
"Our schools are safe," Northam said. "We know that we can follow the mitigation measures."
Nearly 90 percent of Fairfax County Public Schools' staff have already registered to take the vaccine, superintendent Scott Brabrand announced Thursday, and 5,000 staff members have already received the first dose. Technical and special education students will return to classrooms in person on Feb. 16, according to an updated timeline Brabrand shared with the board at Thursday's meeting.
Fairfax County school enrollment has fallen by nearly 5 percent following school closures.