A majority of US adults – nearly six in 10 – say that K-12 schools that are not currently open for in-person learning should wait until all teachers receive the Covid-19 vaccine before they reopen, according to a new survey.
Some 59% of adults said schools should wait for teachers to be vaccinated, compared with 40% who said schools should reopen as soon as possible, regardless of whether teachers who wanted vaccines had received them, according to new findings published Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.
The survey explored “the factors that Americans feel should be given consideration as K-12 schools decide to reopen.”
The opinion on teacher vaccinations, however, varied greatly among racial and ethnic groups: just 51% of White adults said schools should wait until teachers are vaccinated compared with 80% of Black adults, 72% of Asian adults and 69% of Hispanic adults who felt schools should not reopen until teachers receive their vaccines.
The divide over this issue also varies along political lines, according to the study, with 79% of Democrats stating that schools should wait to reopen until teachers are vaccinated.
About 65% of Republicans says schools should open “as soon as possible, even if many teachers who want the vaccine haven’t received it.”
A majority of Americans also think students falling behind academically should be a top consideration in school reopening.
Some 61% of adults say the possibility of students falling behind should be weighed in the decision, compared with 48% who said academics should be given a lot of consideration
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen agreed that teachers should get the Covid-19 vaccine.
“If in-person schooling is deemed essential, then giving teachers the additional protection of the Covid-19 vaccine should be our top priority,” said Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. “We vaccinate all teachers and school staff within a month and achieve President Biden’s goal of getting most K-8 schools open for in-person instruction.”
National Education Association president Becky Pringle said educators want to get back into the classroom but that requires the funding to pay for physical modifications to allow for social distancing; updated ventilation; and personal protective equipment for educators and students. “And our educators should be prioritized for early access to vaccines, she said.
“We share the goal of trying to get students back into the classroom five days per week, and if the CDC guidelines are met, that can be possible,” said Pringle. “If the guidelines are applied universally and consistently in every community and the resources are put in place equitably for all students our school buildings will be safe for in-person learning.”
The Pew Research Center conducted the study between February 16-21, surveying more than 10,000 US adults nationally.
CNN’s Katia Hetter contributed to this report.