Vice President Kamala Harris made it clear Wednesday that nobody’s going to make her take a public position on whether teachers need to be vaccinated before returning to K-12 classrooms.
Ms. Harris repeatedly sidestepped the question in a Wednesday interview on NBC’s “Today,” while her spokesperson, Symone Sanders, did the same in an appearance on CNN.
After NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked if she could “reassure teachers who are listening right now that it is safe for them to go back to school even if they are not vaccinated,” Ms. Harris punted.
“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. Teachers should be a priority,” said Ms. Harris.
Ms. Guthrie gave it another try, pointing out that the Centers for Disease Control has said that teachers “don’t have to be vaccinated to go back to school,” but Ms. Harris refused to deviate from her message.
“We think they should be a priority,” said Ms. Harris. “And the states are making decisions individually about where they will be on the list of who gets vaccinated.”
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday that teachers may return safely to classrooms without first being vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as other safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social-distancing are followed.
“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” said Dr. Walensky during the rollout of the CDC’s reopening guidance.
The announcement put the Biden administration in a bind between its “follow the science” mantra and teachers’ unions, which are major Democratic donors, resisting a return to in-person learning over safety concerns.
CNN host John Berman fared no better with Harris chief spokesperson Symone Sanders, who also dodged the question.
“It’s not a trick question, and I feel like you guys have treated it like a trick question,” Mr. Berman said. “I think people just want to know what the White House position is on whether or not teachers have to vaccinated for kids to return safely to school.”
Replied Ms. Sanders: “The White House position is that, and the president and vice president believe, that teachers should be prioritized for receiving the vaccination, along with other front-line workers.”
Mr. Berman took another stab at it, asking whether vaccines were necessary for teachers and insisting that “it really is a yes-no question.”
“Well, John, I think the real question frankly, if I can be frank here, is what you’re getting to is, is it safe for kids to go back to school?” said Ms. Sanders, prompting Mr. Berman to reply, “That’s not the question. The question is, is it safe for teachers to go back to school?”
“I don’t understand why it’s a hard question to answer,” Mr. Berman said.
Teachers’ unions in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and other major urban districts have fought returning for in-person instruction, citing safety concerns and the importance of passing the Biden $1.9 trillion stimulus package, amid rising pressure from parents and Democratic officials.