By J.D. Davidson
An Indiana congressman who pushed for open schools since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic wants teachers to receive the vaccine early.
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, and a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to give educators the early option.
“When schools closed last spring, children lost education gains and their mental and physical health suffered,” Banks said. “Our kids are essential and so are their teachers. The CDC must prioritize children’s wellbeing – which means doing everything possible to let teachers do their irreplaceable work safely and effectively.”
In its most recent guidelines, the CDC committee says health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities should be offered the vaccine in the initial phase. The committee said health care and long-term care settings can be high-risk locations.
The Indiana Department of Health plans to follow the CDC guidelines when the first vaccines arrive, potentially next week. The state said front-line health care workers and long-term care facility staff are its top priority.
According to the state, more than 14,000 Indiana students have tested positive for COVID-19, and nearly 3,000 teachers have tested positive. Throughout the state, there are 198 schools that have reported no positive cases, while nearly 2,000 have reported one or more.
Indiana schools continue to operate either in-person, fully remote or with some type of hybrid model. Around the country, more and more school systems have either limited or ended in-person learning over the past few weeks as cases rise.
Banks led the charge for complete in-person learning when the pandemic began, and in June he introduced the Reopen Our Schools Act in Congress.
“Indiana schools have been forced to close by staffing shortages caused by exposure to the virus,” Banks wrote in an op-ed for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette over the weekend. “The sooner teachers and school staff can get access to a vaccine, the sooner we can stop worrying about school shutdowns.
“When the time comes, most everyone agrees Indiana’s 370,370 health care workers should and will have the option to be vaccinated first. But it’s equally important for our roughly 59,863 public school teachers and support staff to be second in line.”
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.