October 31, 2021

WEAC, NEA Look to FDA Approval of COVID-19 Vaccine for Children 5-11

WEAC Safe & Healthy Schools Plan emphasizes masks, vaccinations and educator voice.

The anticipated emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 5-to-11-year-olds is a welcome development for Wisconsin Public Schools, said Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. The authorization, expected as soon as November 2, would expand the number of students eligible to receive the vaccine and paves the way for safer, healthier schools, Wirtz-Olsen said.

“WEAC has been a strong voice for educators during the pandemic, including introducing our Safe & Healthy Schools Plan at the start of this school year,” Wirtz-Olsen said. The association supports universal masking in schools, vaccinations for all adults and students eligible to receive them, and educator involvement in science-based school decisions around COVID.

“When communities come together around proven mitigation strategies like masking and vaccines, our youngest learners will more quickly get back to what they love most about school like playing with friends and extracurricular activities.”

As it would likely time months for a substantial number of children to be vaccinated, Wirtz-Olsen said WEAC will continue to be a statewide advocate for directing federal pandemic relief funds to where they will most help, including addressing learning loss by increasing the number of educators so students can get one-on-one help, improving ventilation in aging schools, screening tests and contact tracing. She stressed that districts are required to work with local educator unions in developing plans for how federal funds are spent.

In a weekly COVID update prior to the federal announcement, state officials provided the latest information and trends when it comes to the pandemic and schools, noting that the science is getting stronger in favor of masks and social distancing to lessen the burden on parents created when quarantining is needed.

With the likely coming announcement of emergency authorization for children ages 5-11, Wisconsin districts are already work to determine how to announce the vaccine availability, if the vaccine for young learners or boosters for staff may be administered in partnership with community health agencies and any resulting attendance-related issues. The Wisconsin Health Services Department is working on information sheets about vaccinations and younger children to help in public health education efforts. There is no special allocation of the youth vaccines planned for school districts, as supply is not anticipated to be limited.

The National Education Association also welcomed the FDA’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children 5-to-11 years. “NEA will continue to work to ensure the vaccine is readily available and accessible to all students – including our Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities that are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19,” NEA President Becky Pringle said.