School officials say vaccinating teachers against COVID-19 best chance to return to in-person learning

New Jersey school officials are saying that the only way for schools to resume in-person learning is for teachers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of now, children under the age of 16 are not allowed to take the vaccine, as no studies have been done to confirm that it is safe. School officials like Mount Olive School Superintendent Robert Zywicki say that teachers should be made a priority.
“I hope they’re prioritized soon, because I think that’s a game-changer to get us back full time,” he says. “Our teachers are front-line employees. Our school custodians and bus drivers are front-line employees, just like firefighters and police officers.”
Zywicki says that “ping-ponging” between remote-learning and in-person schooling anytime there is an outbreak in schools isn’t good for teachers, students or parents. In some cases, schools return to in-person, only to get sent home two weeks later. Some school districts aren’t returning until April.
“Our kids have been in school so few days. It’s a real downer when they find out they can’t come in. So, that’s tough on them. And then for the families, it’s ridiculously tough when planning for child care,” Zywicki says.
But getting children vaccinated against the virus won’t happen any time soon. Pfizer says that the company will perform clinical trials on 2,000 children ages 12-15. Moderna is planning trials among 3,000 children ages 12-17.
“Once they’re available, please get your children vaccinated as soon as you’re able,” says pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Kleinman.
Kleinman says that he would expect the vaccine trials to deliver answers within six months – possibly by the summer. He says that questions regarding the vaccine’s effect on children must be answered.
“The maturity of the immune system, the size of the dose that is effective and that is tolerated and the potential for different amounts of side effects,” he says.
However, experts say that even if teachers and children are vaccinated, social distancing and masks will still be necessary, at least until questions surrounding transmission and the lasting power of the vaccine are known.