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COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory for teachers as the school year starts across the country, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday.
As the contagious Delta variant spreads, adults who are eligible for a vaccine should get one to protect children who are too young to get a shot, he said.
“I’m going to upset some people on this, but I think we should [require vaccinations for teachers],” Fauci told MSNBC.
“We are in a critical situation now,” he added. “We’ve had 615,000-plus deaths, and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business.”
Once the FDA fully approves a COVID-19 vaccine this fall, state and local mandates will pick up steam, he said. That will likely include mandates for school districts, colleges, and universities, he added. Several national teachers unions are already reviewing their policies to issue guidance around vaccine mandates, according to NPR.
Fauci said he hopes FDA approval will happen “really quite soon.” In the meantime, he urged teachers and staff to take every precaution they can to take care of their students.
“The best way to protect children is anyone that can be vaccinated, surround the kids with people who are vaccinated — teachers, personnel in the school, whomever,” he said.
“In addition to that, you should have everyone be wearing a mask,” he added. “We know how that can be uncomfortable, but you’d rather have a somewhat uncomfortable situation with a well child than a temporarily comfortable situation with a child in the ICU.”
Children are contracting the coronavirus at a higher rate than before due to the spike in infections associated with the Delta variant, according to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics. During the past 2 weeks, there was a 4% increase in the number of child COVID-19 cases.
Throughout the pandemic, nearly 4.3 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, representing 14.3% of total cases. For the week ending August 5, children represented 15% of weekly COVID-19 cases across the country.
“Almost 94,000 cases were added the past week, a continuing substantial increase,” according to the report. “After declining in early summer, child cases have steadily increased since the beginning of July.”
Children still make up a small percentage of overall cases and few develop serious COVID-19 or die. Even still, child hospitalizations are on the rise, and researchers are still unsure about the long-term effects on patients. Fauci emphasized that teachers and school staff have two main tools to protect children — wear masks and get vaccinated.
“If you want to be around children, you’ve got to do whatever you can to protect them,” he said. “And if you’re eligible to get vaccinated, get vaccinated.”
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