CHICAGO — With the governor ordering all teachers to get COVID-19 vaccinations, some teachers in Chicago are opposed to government mandates — saying health care choices are personal, even in a pandemic.
The statewide mandate, which was was announced Thursday, comes just one week after CPS said that all of its staff would have to get their shots, or tested regularly. The decision has some arguing that they should be able to make the choice themselves.
WGN News spoke to three teachers, who are remaining anonynmous, about the situation as the school year for thousands of Chicago area students begins.
A CPS educator we spoke with said she’s a part of a group of more than 130 CPS teachers who say they’re opposed to the vaccine mandates.
“It’s taking away some of our civil liberties. I feel like we are having less and less of an option to choose what we would like to do with our bodies, and what we do with our health choices,” she said.
On Thursday, Gov. Pritzker ordered all preschool through 12th grade teachers, higher education employees and college students to get the vaccine starting on Sept. 5.
“Vaccination remains our strongest tool to protect ourselves and our loved ones to restore post-pandemic life to our communities,” he said.
A teacher at a Southwest Side school told WGN News they believe the mandate is creating unnecessary tension and they don’t want what they see as political interference in their own health care decisions.
“It’s just disheartening to know that our freedom of medical choices are being taken away in this way — and I think it’s a real slippery slope, too, because if we allow this, then what’s next?” they said.
Chicago Public Schools said employees without an approved medical or religious exemption must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.
“Employees without an approved medical or religious exemption who are not fully vaccinated by October 15, 2021, will be ineligible to work until they are fully vaccinated and provide confirmation of vaccination to CPS,” the district said.
The Chicago Teachers Union supports the mandates, but said “CPS must do more to provide safety and recovery to school communities.”
Still, the anti-mandate teachers said they feel like they’re alone and fear they may lose their jobs over the opposition.
“Yes, it’s definitely a fear of mine, but what’s happening right now in our city and our state around the country with these mandates and the control, that’s more of a fear to me than losing my job,” a teacher said. “I’m willing to fight for our rights, stand up against it and speak up for our medical freedom.”
The FDA has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, calling it safe and effective.
The mandate includes teachers, staff, vendors and administrators.