Workplace Culture

Teachers move near the front of the line for vaccine

Meghan McCarty Carino Dec 21, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
A teacher helps her first-grade student during in-person class at an elementary school in Stamford, Connecticut, in September. John Moore/Getty Images
Workplace Culture

Teachers move near the front of the line for vaccine

Meghan McCarty Carino Dec 21, 2020
Heard on:
A teacher helps her first-grade student during in-person class at an elementary school in Stamford, Connecticut, in September. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Health care workers and residents of nursing homes around the country have started to receive the very first doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

This week an advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recommendations about which frontline essential workers — those in jobs that put them at the highest risk — should be next.

On the short list: people who staff food and agriculture supply chains, firefighters, those in law enforcement and teachers. 

There have been questions about where educators should be on the list as they technically can work remotely, though distance learning has created other problems.

States will have the final say about when teachers get vaccinated. Utah for example, is already planning to vaccinate all educators in January. 

But teachers may not be considered essential frontline workers under some state guidelines, said labor economist Francine Blau at Cornell University.

“These categories are nuanced,” she said. “So we have to consider — is remote education a possibility? What are the downsides to remote education for the students themselves but also for their families?”

Blau co-authored a National Bureau of Economic Research paper about which workers should be considered frontline. She said teachers may not be as at risk as, say, meatpacking staff. They can work at home, as many have been for months. 

But shutting down in-person learning has brought other complications, said health policy professor Lisa Prosser at the University of Michigan.

“We are especially concerned about disruptions in in-person schooling that there may be very long-term effects, especially in these vulnerable communities,” she said.

Remote school has amplified existing economic disparities, said Prosser, and made it hard for many parents, especially women, to work.

But simply vaccinating teachers may not automatically make schools safe, said Harley Litzelman, a high school teacher in Oakland, California.

“If there’s uncontrolled spread in a community, there’s going to be something similar in schools,” he said.

While kids are at lower risk of severe disease, they have been found to spread the virus. Current vaccines have only been authorized for adults. Clinical trials to prove efficacy in children began in October, meaning it will likely be well into next year before many students can be immunized.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Read More

Collapse

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.