Vaccinated teachers could be key to lowering in-school transmission

According to the CDC, educators might play a central role within in-school transmission networks.
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:35 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says teachers may transmit the virus in school settings more than students. This comes after other studies say students do not transmit as much as adults.

As of Monday, February 22, Louisiana teachers in grades Kindergarten through 12th are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and many are signing up for it.

“First, it was hallelujah!” said preschool teacher Lyndsey Jackson. She said as soon as registration opened Monday morning, she began calling pharmacies and vaccine providers to get on the waitlist.

“Wednesday at 2 o’clock. I told them they can pick an arm,” Jackson laughed. She just learned her vaccine appointment was confirmed, and she is excited. “Honestly, all I could do was take a deep breath.”

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Jackson said for most of the pandemic, she felt helpless. Even though she was following the safety measures, she never truly felt safe from the virus. Now, as the one-year mark since the pandemic began approaches, she is starting to feel a little more relieved now that she is getting the vaccine.

The new CDC study states teacher-to-teacher transmission was the most common type of in-school transmission and found in-school transmission rates were three times higher when the first case was from a teacher.

Dr. Ben Springgate, chief of community and population medicine at LSU Health, said the transmission happens when mitigation measures aren’t strictly followed-- such as improper social distancing or inadequate mask-wearing.

“Frequently, people let their guards down when they are in the breakroom or relaxing before school or after school or in any work setting honestly, not just school,” said Dr. Springgate. “Even though we have a personal comfort level with them, we trust them, we believe that they are our friends or our coworkers who we really enjoy their company, we’re not entirely confident they may have accidentally come in contact with someone else outside the school setting who may have accidentally infected them.”

Springgate said teachers and students still need to practice those safety measures that work in slowing or preventing the spread of the virus.

More: Teachers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

But now that teachers are eligible for an extra layer of protection in the vaccine, many are feeling like a weight has been lifted.

“I am taking a big step, not only to protect myself, but to protect the people that I love and that includes those little faces that are in my classroom, and their families,” said Jackson.

Many teachers reported having issues getting on a list or scheduling an appointment for a vaccine. Dr. Springgate mentioned that issue is most likely due to the extensive waitlist of people from previous tiers waiting for more doses of the vaccine to arrive. He said the extreme winter weather from last week has impacted shipments to the area thus impacting vaccination schedules.

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