Prioritizing teacher vaccinations will be a challenge until shortage is resolved, Biden official says

Prioritizing teachers in Covid vaccine distribution will continue to be a challenge until more doses are readily available, Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, said Wednesday.

President Joe Biden has made reopening the nation’s schools for in-person instruction one of his top priorities.

On Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines saying teachers do not have to be vaccinated to safely reopen schools, but that states should give teachers priority access to Covid vaccines.

Slavitt said governors have “difficult decisions” to make in juggling vaccine distribution for groups including seniors, nursing home workers and teachers.

“We try to support them with the science the best we can, but until the shortage is resolved we’re going to still have these challenges,” Slavitt told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.”

The issue of whether teachers should be vaccinated before returning to the classroom has been a flashpoint in the debate regarding reopening in-person instruction.

Vice President Kamala Harris said on the Today Show Wednesday morning, “Teachers should be a priority.”

During a Wednesday briefing, the White House’s lead Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said that while Biden and Harris believe teachers and other frontline workers should be at the front of the line to receive vaccines, they both agree with the CDC that vaccinating teachers is “not a requirement to reopening schools.”

The CDC guidance also advises schools to align reopening plans with the severity of outbreak in their communities. The agency also recommends schools maintain “essential elements” for in-person learning including mask wearing, physical distancing and monitoring spread in the surrounding area.

“If this were easy, it’d be done,” Slavitt told CNBC. “We’re focused on how we get kids and teachers back to school — not whether we should, but how. And that’s what I think the CDC plan laid out.”

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