Teachers' union backs vaccine mandates for teachers to protect students who are too young to get the shot as the Delta variant makes more kids sick

A teacher takes the temperature of pupils lining up outside school wearing face masks.
Temperatures being taken of young students who are wearing masks. Javier Zayas Photography
  • The president of the second-largest teachers' union said she supports vaccine mandates for teachers.

  • Randi Weingarten said a mandate would help protect students, especially those too young to be vaccinated.

  • Some doctors have said the Delta variant is causing an increase in kids sick with COVID-19.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The head of the second-largest teachers' union in the US said Sunday she supports vaccine mandates for teachers in order to protect students, especially those who are too young to get inoculated.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said immunizations in schools are not a new thing and that "we need to be working with our employers, not opposing them, on vaccine mandates."

The announcement was a shift in stance for the union, which previously said it did not support vaccine mandates for teachers, but announced Thursday it was reconsidering the issue.

"I do think the circumstances have changed, and that vaccination is a community responsibility," Weingarten told NBC's Chuck Todd. "And it weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can't get vaccinated."

Read more: Democrats need to stand up to politically powerful unions that are standing in the way of getting America fully vaccinated

Weingarten said that even without a mandate, 90% of teachers in her union have gotten the vaccine. The White House also said last week that 90% of educators and school staff are vaccinated.

She also said there should be accommodations made for religious and medical exemptions, and expressed interest in a vaccine or testing mandate model, like the one the White House announced for federal employees.

The COVID-19 vaccines have not been authorized for use on children under 12. Meanwhile, the more infectious Delta variant of the virus is rapidly spreading, causing a surge in cases and hospitalization in some states.

Doctors have expressed concern that Delta appears to affect kids more than other strains, as a growing number of young people are getting sick. Insider's Aria Bendix reported in June that more kids seemed to be getting sick from Delta, but that severe infections were still rare.

Some hospitals in states with significant outbreaks have said they are seeing more children hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic.

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