Following FDA approval, Texas school districts may soon impose vaccine mandates for employees

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine now FDA approved, some school districts are doubling down on plans to mandate vaccines for employees.

San Antonio ISD reaffirmed that all teachers and staff must be vaccinated by Oct. 15.

“The vaccines have shown themselves to be safe and effective with few or no serious side effects,” SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez wrote to employees. “This is a profound moment where we can choose to lead by example. By obtaining the vaccine as soon as possible, you can become maximally protected from serious illness and help to protect our community during this serious public health threat.”

Some educators would like to see that same example being brought to Central Texas schools. Karen Blais, a former dyslexia therapist in the Austin Independent School District, decided to resign from her post in the Summer of 2020 due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus. She said she needed to protect her kids from possible exposure.

“If I was going to keep my kids safe, I had to also keep myself safe,” Blais said. “When it comes to teachers, they are the first line with our kids. They are in the faces of our children daily and it’s important that teachers and staff are vaccinated to be with kids all the time.”

The possibility of a vaccine mandate is intriguing to Blais, and she said she would even consider returning to her campus if that measure was taken. Blais acknowledged that the district is facing an ongoing shortage with more than 130 vacancies district-wide. She figured the easiest way to go about it is to make the COVID shot a part of the minimum state vaccine requirements currently in place. In that same way, San Antonio ISD is providing exemptions to those with medical or religious restrictions.

On Monday, KXAN reached out to all Central Texas school districts about this. From the ones who responded, Hays CISD and Manor ISD said they would not require vaccines. Pflugerville ISD said it was too early to say if it will require vaccines. While they acknowledged the question, there was no official response provided from Austin ISD or Round Rock ISD.

Some people say it’s not a school district’s right to make this type of demand. Lisa Pannell has worked in the AISD transportation department for more than a decade. While she is partially vaccinated, she believes the shot shouldn’t be forced on anyone.

“It’s my choice to do it. And it should be everyone else’s own choice if they want to do it.” Pannell said. “I’m not saying don’t get the shot. I am saying it should be the choice of the individual whether or not they get the shot. Not the school district, the company or government telling you, you have to get the shot. It’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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