A proposed policy from a Cincinnati Public Schools committee could require COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees within the district.
The CPS Board of Education's Policy and Equity Committee recommended the mandate during its Aug. 26 meeting. It would require all district teachers, staff and support employees to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the Pfizer vaccine full approval for adults on Aug. 23; emergency use authorization for those age 15 and younger remains in place. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently have emergency use authorization but are seeking full FDA approval.
Pfizer's recent FDA approval was key to the proposed policy, as Ohio law dictates that school districts can only require fully approved vaccines, rather than emergency-authorized vaccines.
The Policy and Equity Committee presented the mandate as part of the district's requirement to provide workplaces "free of known hazards" and to "safeguard the health of our employees, our students and their families and the community at large from COVID-19," according to policy language.
CPS employees would be able to apply for an exemption from the vaccination mandate for medical or sincerely held religious reasons. Political beliefs will not be considered for vaccination exemptions, the proposed policy says.
New CPS employees would be informed of the mandate and would need to provide vaccination proof before the first day on the job, the policy says.
If approved, the policy would be in place for the 2021-2022 school year.
The proposed policy moves to discussion among the full CPS Board of Education on Sept. 13.
CPS has been discussing a vaccination mandate for some time, especially as COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly transmissible Delta variant have mounted all summer. The district announced in early August that it would continue to require masking from all employees and students within district buildings.
Health officials have long said that a combination of vaccinations and masking will help slow the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals wear face masks, especially indoors and in regions of great virus transmission or low vaccination (as of Aug. 27, the CDC labels all counties in the Cincinnati area as "high" risk). The federal agency also urged all K-12 schools to require masking for students, employees and visitors, regardless of whether they've received an authorized COVID-19 vaccine or not.
After the CDC announced its return to masking, Cincinnati Children's shared a statement that urged masking for all K-12 students and employees.
"Cincinnati Children’s recommends that all children returning to in-person school wear masks, regardless of vaccination status," the statement said in part. "Many children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and others should mask because no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection. In addition, teachers and staff should continue to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status."
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is fully surrounding Cincinnati. This week, Ohio reported a 900% increase in COVID-19 infections over the last month, with the southern border of the state considered a hot spot. Meanwhile, Kentucky had a 26% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over a one-week period, with more than 20% of the Commonwealth's hospitals experiencing staff shortages. COVID-19 infections in children also increased 400% over the last month in Kentucky.
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