Vice President Kamala Harris said the Biden administration believes teachers “should be a priority” in receiving the coronavirus vaccine as parents and educators clash over whether it is safe for teachers to return to the classroom without inoculations against COVID-19.
The comments came as Harris, during an interview on NBC’s “Today” Wednesday morning, was pressed on the Biden administration’s policies on school reopenings.
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“Teachers should be a priority. Teachers should be a priority,” Harris said. “Teachers are critical to our children’s development, they should be able to teach in a safe place and expand the minds and the opportunities of our children, so, teachers should be a priority along with other front-line workers.”
She added: “We’re going to make them a priority.”
Host Savannah Guthrie, though, pressed Harris on whether it was safe for teachers to return to school without vaccinations.
Harris refused to explicitly say but said it’s “so important we pass the American Rescue Plan” —President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
“It is going to be safer for our schools to reopen when we can get the schools the infrastructure needs, like helping them with their ventilation systems, helping them create social distancing with barriers — the things that are necessary to get them back open in a safe way,” Harris said.
Guthrie pressed again on whether it was safe for educators to return to the classroom, as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance does not require teachers to be vaccinated.
“We think they should be a priority. We think they should be a priority,” Harris said again, without directly answering the question. “And the states are making decisions individually about where they will be on the list of who gets vaccinated. I believe they should be a priority. The president believes they should be a priority.”
As for a return to school, Harris said the “goal” is to have “as many K-8 schools as possible” reopen within the Biden administration’s first 100 days.
“Our goal is that it will be five days a week, and so we have to work to achieve that goal, but our goal is the goal of parents and here’s the thing — the issue here is not just about statistics, it is about our kids, their parents,” Harris said, adding that “every day our kids are missing essential, critical days in their educational development.”
“The fact that by the end of third grade, if a child is not at third-grade reading level, they literally drop off,” Harris said. “So each day in the life of a child is a very long time, so that’s why we’ve got to collectively do everything in our power to reopen our schools as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.”
Meanwhile, Harris addressed the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine rollout program, saying that they expect shots will be “in the arms of all Americans” by the end of July.
“We are very excited about that,” she said, touting the new administration’s work to expand access, coordinate with states, pharmacies and community health centers.
The White House this week announced that the Biden administration is increasing its vaccine supply to states to 13.5 million doses per week — an increase from the 10 million doses per week the White House had previously announced.
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“As quickly as we’re producing it, we’re getting it out,” she said. “We just want to say to everybody — just please get vaccinated, and, in the interim, let’s do what we know we can do… wear a mask, social distance and make sure you wash your hands, and do that frequently.”
Some critics have accused the Biden-Harris administration of downplaying the work that was done before they took office.
Harris claimed in a recent interview that the Biden administration started “from scratch” on a national vaccination strategy amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said otherwise last month.
Meanwhile, Harris was also asked for a reaction to former President Trump’s second Senate acquittal after being impeached by the House of Representatives last month on one article of inciting insurrection.
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“Right now, I am focused on relief to American families,” Harris said, calling it the “highest priority.”
When asked whether there was a strong case against Trump, Harris replied: “I haven’t reviewed it. I am reviewing the case of COVID.”