In a written announcement, SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said the rule is needed to combat “new and more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus” in the San Antonio area.
“The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective in mitigating the effects of the virus, and we are hearing that the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] will grant full approval — not just an emergency approval — of the available COVID-19 vaccines in the next few weeks. We understand some of you may have been hesitant and were waiting for this final step from the FDA, and I hope this brings you reassurance,” Martinez wrote.
“We strongly believe that the best path forward as a school district is to require all staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19. And the timing is now. This is a profound moment where we can choose to lead by example.”
Martinez goes on to thank employees that have already been vaccinated, which make up about 90 percent of district staff.
The same order forbids local governments from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine until full FDA approval.
“No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization,” Abbott’s order reads.
Although this order was not Abbott’s first clampdown on local mask mandates, local governments have bucked it with a dizzying series of lawsuits as fears of new coronavirus variants heighten. School districts across the state have defied the order.
In Bexar County, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and county Judge Nelson Wolff took the fight to court on behalf of schools and other San Antonio government property. First, they won a temporary restraining order allowing them to keep mask mandates. Abbott then nabbed a Supreme Court of Texas ruling that stayed the order. However, a Bexar County judge yesterday issued a temporary injunction — to which the Supreme Court stay did not apply — allowing mask mandates. In other words, San Antonio mask rules are here to stay for now.
While localities across the state have fought tooth and nail in the past two weeks for power that Abbott previously allowed, San Antonio may be the first school district in the state to require vaccines.
In his letter, Martinez said that federal employment guidelines allow vaccine mandates as a condition of employment.
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has confirmed that employers can make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for employees, with some restrictions,” he wrote.
“If you believe you qualify for an exemption, such as having a qualifying disability that puts you at risk of side effects when receiving vaccinations or having religious objections to vaccines, more information will be forthcoming from Human Resources on how to provide documentation for allowable exemptions.”
The vaccine rule may lead to another legal battle akin to the ongoing skirmish at Houston Methodist Hospital, where a number of nurses and other employees were fired after the hospital instituted a vaccine mandate.
Martinez noted in his letter to parents that the local area has a positivity rate of 20 percent compared to the district’s positivity rate of 2 percent.
The mounting concern over new coronavirus variants recalls the fears that characterized the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
A strong trend persists indicating that COVID-19 poses a very small risk of death to children. According to federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 610,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. 354 of them died below the age of 18.
State numbers tell a similar story: out of the 52,931 fatalities that Texas has suffered under the pandemic, 59 died under the age of 20. This trend reflects early data from the first weeks of the 2020 school year.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.