How valid are these concerns? The degree to which vaccination will reduce transmission is not yet known. But given concerns about the preliminary data, Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine that “the likelihood that these vaccines reduce the ability to transmit the virus to others remains excellent.”
When it comes to community rates and children needing to be vaccinated as reasons for preventing schools from fully opening, it is not clear why this would affect teachers, as they would already be vaccinated. Governors could theoretically care about this on the assumption that children, who themselves are at extremely low risk, could still transmit the virus among themselves and in the community. But, according to reports from researchers at the CDC and the World Health Organization, schools are do not considered the primary source of spread in the community, and pupil-to-pupil spread is the rarest among school transmission scenarios. (And these reports analyzed data from before mass vaccination of educators.) Additionally, parents have the option of keeping their children at home if they are concerned about vulnerable family members.
How to interpret the data, especially real-world data compiled outside the confines of a double-blind study, will always be up for debate. When I asked Vinay Prasad, hematologist and associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, when scientists will be able to say with confidence if and to what extent vaccinated people can transmit, he said: “Conclusive proof will take a long time, like only after immunizing most people.
The question then becomes: is it appropriate to continue to prevent children from going to school until reluctant teachers or politicians feel they have a degree of certainty about the risks that do not arise? may not show up for a long time, if ever? More broadly, was it ethical to prioritize education workers getting vaccinated without an explicit promise that schools would reopen completely immediately afterwards?
“Whenever we think about the consequences of prioritizing one group, we have to think about the consequences of de-prioritizing other groups,” said Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, professor of medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine. Stefan Baral, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recently wrote, “Aligning coverage with risks is not only more equitable, it is essential for vaccine effectiveness.”
Baral’s colleague Jennifer Nuzzo, also a professor of epidemiology, emailed me: “Once we have protected the teachers and school staff, I think it’s reasonable for the children to go back to school. full-time school if we can maintain other protective measures (masks, hygiene, cohort). I don’t think it’s in line with the social pact to accept a vaccine and not go back to work.
“If a teacher gets vaccinated, he has a moral duty to report to work,” Prasad said. “They have an almost zero percent chance of serious Covid.” And the potential for transmission to others, he argued, is likely to be greatly reduced.
As Daniel Sulmasy, physician and director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics in Georgetown, said: “For a teacher to say, ‘I won’t teach even after I have been vaccinated because I could bring the virus home,’ seems quite suspicious. , since healthcare workers do this every day.
During the pandemic, politicians like Andrew Cuomo often boasted that they “follow the science”. But science is not a policy. A zero-Covid scenario is highly unlikely for the foreseeable future, even after mass vaccination. As a society, we must ask ourselves when we can expect citizens, and certainly workers considered essential as teachers, to accept a minimum degree of risk. “We were able to gain such control over natural forces that people now expect that everything can be controlled. It’s a moral failure, ”Sulmasy told me. There are trends in our society, he said, which are “extremely risk averse, beyond what is reasonable and practical.”