PAT Supports Vaccine Mandate for Educators

Dear Educator,

Today PPS made the announcement that PPS employees will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, or to submit to regular testing. PAT supports this important step towards keeping our school communities safe in this ongoing pandemic and ensuring our students experience as little disruption this fall as we are able to manage. 

Vaccination is our most powerful tool to get our students back to in-person learning, and to restore the interaction and personal connection that is such a crucial part of learning. 

In our recent survey of PAT members, almost 98% of members reported that they are already vaccinated, and the majority of the remaining members reported that they have a medical or religious reason for exemption. So while PAT members have overwhelmingly already met this mandate, it is an important first step towards ensuring that everyone in our school communities are vaccinated, if they are able to be.

Under state law, employers have the right to mandate vaccines for their employees, and unions have a right to bargain the impact. PAT fully supports the right of all our union siblings to bargain the impact of this mandate, including making sure there are alternatives for those with a legitimate reason to not be vaccinated. 

Our survey also shows that PAT members overwhelmingly support vaccine mandates for both PPS employees and students.

Vaccine mandates are effective because, in addition to protecting the individuals who are vaccinated and reducing spread of disease, they create an environment of “herd immunity” which is necessary to protect our most vulnerable community members who are not able to get vaccinated.

Of course, the vast majority of our school population is students, so to reach “herd immunity” we need our students to be vaccinated as well (more on that below). 

In addition to vaccination, we will continue to fight to maintain all the crucial safety measures that we won in our Spring MOU.

As we continue to navigate this pandemic, there are no simple or straightforward solutions. We will continue to work together to find the best path to meet the needs of our members, our students, and our communities. We are so grateful for your continued dedication to our students and support for your colleagues as we will manage another difficult year together. 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel, President, Portland Association of Teachers

What does it take to get a vaccine mandated for students?

This is a question we have been working hard to get a clear answer to. Our best understanding is this:

  1. First, the vaccine needs to gain full approval by the FDA (currently it has emergency authorization). This is expected to happen in the next month.
  2. After that, the Oregon Health Authority has a process to review vaccines to consider adding them to the list of required vaccines, through the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Department of Health and Human Services, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They use this criteria to make decisions.
  3. Once a vaccine is recommended by the ACIP, the state Legislature, the Governor, or a local school district make a vaccine mandatory.