WASHINGTON — The head of the American Federation of Teachers union said on Sunday that she supports a vaccine mandate for educators.
AFT President Randi Weingarten estimated about 90% of AFT members are already vaccinated.
“As a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers — not opposing them on vaccine mandates,” Weingarten during an appearance on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. “The circumstances have changed. … It weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated.”
In New York, the state Health Department and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office do not plan to release any guidelines for reopening schools this upcoming academic year, placing the onus of implementing safety COVID protocols squarely on local officials and individual school districts.
New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who has supported tighter pandemic restrictions amid the delta variant surge, called Weingarten’s comments a game-changer.
“NYC should move immediately to implement a vaccine mandate for teachers ahead of the coming school year,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has mandated the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing for all City of New York employees. Additionally, any new hires will be required to get vaccinated before they can start their first day on the job. Those new employees do not get the option of weekly virus testing.
The United Federation of Teachers union, which represents most city educators, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Weingarten’s stance on a vaccine mandate.
In July, the union had sent an email to members stating they were shifting focus to encourage a return to in-person learning for all students in the upcoming school year. The UFT also set up its own vaccination program to help its members get the COVID-19 vaccine when they became eligible in January.
Health experts, including U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert — Dr. Anthony Fauci — are calling this fourth wave the pandemic of the unvaccinated.
“If they stay unvaccinated and don’t wear masks, ultimately, they’re going to end up getting infected and that’s what we’re concerned about,” Dr. Fauci said on Sunday’s Meet The Press. “It is, as we’ve said, a pandemic and an outbreak of the unvaccinated.”
The federal government, he says, is not mandating the vaccines for the country but once FDA approval is finalized — which he hopes will be in a few weeks — we could see mandates elsewhere.
“If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises giving mandates,” Dr. Fauci added. “That could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety and I strongly support that.”