SAISD announced just last week that it would require staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine before October 15. Now, Superintendent Pedro Martinez has announced that this requirement will only apply to vaccines that receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“As I stated at the Board meeting, should the vaccines not be fully FDA approved within the timeline I have set, I will reassess the situation regarding a requirement to be fully vaccinated,” SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez wrote in a district-wide announcement issued Friday.
“Let me be clear, I will not compel any staff member to be vaccinated until the vaccines are fully approved by the FDA. If FDA has not approved the vaccines by Sept. 10, 2021, I will revise the deadline to allow employees to obtain an FDA fully approved vaccine in a timely manner.”
This clarification aligns SAISD’s vaccine requirement with Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-38, which forbids mask mandates, vaccine passports, and requirements to receive an emergency vaccine.
“No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization,” the order reads.
On August 19, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the district for violating this provision. When Martinez released his clarification the next day, Paxton claimed credit.
“State law could not be clearer: ‘No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.’ But San Antonio ISD tried to play by its own set of rules. Thankfully, we stopped them,” Paxton stated.
SAISD may have broken new ground in Texas with its vaccine requirement. Reportedly, it was the first district in the state to require COVID-19 vaccines for staff.
In addition, state law is relatively silent when it comes to vaccine requirements for teachers. Texas code very specifically requires certain immunizations for students and children at daycare facilities, but not for educators.
The FDA approved one of the COVID-19 vaccines just today: the Pfizer vaccine, now known as Comirnaty.
With this approval, SAISD may require staff to receive the Comirnaty vaccine without fear of legal conflict with the state.
The Texas Workforce Commission has advised employers that vaccine incentives may be legally safer than requirements.
“In general, mandatory vaccination requirements are not recommended for employers outside of the healthcare industry due to the complicated issues that can arise from such a mandate,” the commission’s advice reads.
“For those employers who do choose to mandate employee vaccines, they should make the exemptions for medical or religious reasons clear in policy, create a process for opting out, and consider only applying the policy towards employees who regularly interact with patients.”
State and federal data both continue to show that COVID-19 poses a very small risk of death to children. Out of the 614,000 Americans that have died from COVID-19 since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started measurement on January 1, 2020, only 361 of them were under the age of 18. According to state data, 59 Texans under the age of 20 have died of COVID-19 out of the state’s 53,700 total fatalities.
According to the City of San Antonio’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are 393 staffed beds available out of 4,531 staffed beds total.
90 percent of SAISD staff are already vaccinated, according to Martinez. 66.4 percent of Bexar County residents are fully vaccinated.
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