With the initial distribution of COVID-19 vaccines underway, hopes are high that the vaccine could help clear the way for more in-person learning this coming spring at schools in New York City. New York officials have prioritized vaccines for a wide swath of education workers — including teachers, day care workers, and bus drivers — putting them in the second wave of eligibility after frontline health care workers and nursing home residents and staff. But even as teachers sign up for shots, public health experts—including global director of ICAP Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA—have emphasized that in addition to the availability of vaccines to educators, the level of coronavirus spread in the broader community will continue to be a factor in making decisions about ramping up in-person learning in NYC.
“It is critically important that we don’t think of the teachers as an isolated population; they are part of [the] overall community,” said Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “The bigger question is about uptake by [the] overall population.”