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WH Press Secretary Says Teacher Vaccinations Not Required to Reopen Schools

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday attempted to clarify the Biden administration’s position on coronavirus vaccinations for teachers amid mounting pressure on the White House to offer more guidance regarding school re-openings.

Psaki was asked during her regular press briefing whether the Biden administration is sharing the message with teachers that a coronavirus vaccination is not necessary for teachers to return to the classroom, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think what I was conveying, just for full clarity, is that it’s a recommendation. It’s one of many mitigation steps,” Psaki responded during Wednesday’s briefing.

“The CDC guidelines are guidelines. They are not requirements,” she continued. “But at the same time, the president and the vice president believe that teachers should be prioritized, and in many states they already are.”

Pressed on whether she agreed with the CDC recommendation that vaccinations are “not a must” for teachers to return to in-person learning, Psaki agreed.

“Correct. That it is one of a number of mitigation steps that should be taken by schools to keep things safe,” she responded before emphasizing that “we need money” for school districts to safely reopen schools amid the pandemic.

The CDC released highly-anticipated new guidelines Friday on how to safely re-open schools, recommending that schools do not need to wait for teachers and other staff to be vaccinated in order to open classrooms, but urging that teachers should be prioritized for the shots. The recommendations came as some teachers unions, particularly those that are most active in major cities, demand that all teachers be vaccinated before returning to in-person instruction.

On Tuesday night, President Biden contradicted his press secretary during a CNN town hall, saying Psaki’s claim last week that the administration’s school reopening goal was limited to one day per week was a “a mistake in the communication.”

Biden said Tuesday night that “the goal will be five days a week” of in-person classes for many schools by the end of his first 100 days in office.

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