Ohio teacher unions accuse Gov. DeWine of holding vaccine ‘hostage’

‘Governor DeWine needs to stop playing games with the health and lives of our school communities.’

Ohio teacher unions accuse Gov. DeWine of holding vaccine ‘hostage’
Teacher unions from across Ohio say Gov. DeWine is pressuring schools to reopen before it is safe. (Source: Live 5/File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Several of Ohio’s largest teacher unions say Gov. Mike DeWine “coerced” commitments from school district superintendents to return to in-person learning.

DeWine made the claim Tuesday that 96 percent of public school districts had committed to returning to school at least partially in person by March 1.

The alleged price for refusing to sign the commitment form? Loss of access to the vaccine.

Teacher unions representing the city school districts of Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown said as much Thursday in a jointly issued statement.

“[...]Governor DeWine needs to stop playing games with the health and lives of our school communities,” the statement concludes.

The unions say schools are being “pressured” to reopen before it is safe. They also claim the commitment form in question “was presented as a prerequisite for educators and school staff to receive vaccines during Phase 1B.”

It’s not their only problem with a March 1 return.

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Unlike Kentucky, Ohio has not yet begun to vaccinate K-12 educators, instead prioritizing those 75 years and older. Vaccinations will begin among educators in Ohio the week of Feb. 1 for the first dose and will continue over the course of the month.

Immunity against COVID-19 is supposed not to reach the 95-percent efficacy mark until around 10 days after the second dose.

Conceivably, educators and school staff could return with students to in-person instruction not having received the second dose — or having received it, but not yet sporting the ironclad immunity touted by the vaccine makers and the FDA.

The teacher unions take it further, saying the timeline for vaccine distribution means “no educators and staff will be fully vaccinated” by March 1.

“We are disappointed that Governor DeWine has decided to use the distribution of a life-saving vaccine as a bargaining chip, holding this precious commodity hostage while pitting parents, administrators, teachers, other school workers, and students against each other,” the statement reads.

The unions agree consequences are unlikely for districts that fail to reopen March 1. That doesn’t mean, they argue, the tactic is without harm.

“Parents across the state now have unrealistic expectations for a March 1 reopening that simply will not be possible in many school districts,” the statement says. “In some districts, these expectations are already pushing superintendents to announce and plan for reopening before it is safe.”

The unions ask DeWine not to rush the reopening “mere weeks” ahead of the time vaccinations could be complete.

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