WATCH: Savannah Guthrie Pushes Kamala Harris to Say Unvaccinated Teachers Are ‘Safe’ to Return to Schools
Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie repeatedly pressed Vice President Kamala Harris to publicly assure teachers that it’s “safe” for them to return to school — even if they’re not vaccinated.
On Wednesday morning, Guthrie spent a few minutes of her exclusive interview with the vice president trying to extract that reassurance, but the VP would not do so without qualification.
“The CDC has said it is not a prerequisite for teachers to be vaccinated for them to go back to school, but many teachers are wary of going back to school, and we’ve had some cities have to sue the teachers union or sue their own school districts to try to get these schools to reopen,” Guthrie said, and asked, “Can you reassure teachers who are listening right now that it is safe for them to go back to school — even if they are not vaccinated — if these public health measures like distancing and masks are being implemented?”
“So first of all, let me just say this, and the president has said it, and we’re all really clear: Teachers should be a priority,” Harris said, and repeated it for emphasis: “Teachers should be a priority.”
“Look, let me just tell you something, I love teachers, my first grade teacher Mrs. Francis Wilson attended my law school graduation,” Harris continued. “Teachers are critical to our children’s development, they should be able to teach at a safe place and expand the minds and the opportunities of our children. So teachers should be a priority, along with other frontline workers, and we’re going to make them a priority. I believe that 22 states… have prioritized teachers in terms of vaccinations…
“But if they’re not vaccinated, is it safe for them?” Guthrie interrupted.
“Well I think that we have to decide if we can put in place safe measures, this is why it’s so important we pass the American Rescue Plan,” Harris replied, and as she described the measures in the plan, Guthrie interrupted again.
“I don’t want to beat it to death but I just, I know there are teachers listening, and the CDC has said they don’t have to be vaccinated to go back to school, of course it’s the priority…” Guthrie said.
“We think they should be a priority,” Harris interrupted. “We think they should be a priority. We think they should be a priority, and the states are making decisions individually about where they will be on the list of who gets vaccinated. I believe they should be a priority, the president believes they should be a priority.”
The Biden administration has consistently said it will follow the CDC guidelines, but has also stressed the importance of vaccinating teachers. Those guidelines, as Guthrie noted, do say that “Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction,” but they also say that “vaccinating teachers and school staff can be considered one layer of mitigation and protection for staff and students. Strategies to minimize barriers to accessing vaccination for teachers and other frontline essential workers, such as vaccine clinics at or close to the place of work, are optimal.”
The guidelines do not say that it is “safe” for unvaccinated teachers to return to school, and in fact state that the layers of mitigation are integral to the “safe delivery of in-person instruction.”
“When mitigation strategies are consistently and correctly used, the risk of spread within the school environment is decreased,” the guidance says.
The message from Harris and the Biden administration is clear: Despite the reduced risk of community transmission among students, they are taking the side of teachers and their concerns.
Watch the clip above via NBC.
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