In statements during a COVID-19 White House press briefing, Walensky said, "There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated".
Some teachers' unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, have balked at resuming in-person instruction before teachers are inoculated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that teachers do not need to receive COVID-19 vaccines before schools can safely reopen. L.A. Unified Supt. Austin Beutner has said it is critical that health officials specifically target school employees for vaccination while campuses are closed so that this impediment to reopening is removed.
Under guidance provided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, teachers are considered essential workers, a priority category for immunizations, Walensky said.
In Massachusetts, K-12 educators are in line to get vaccines later this month, part of Phase 2 of the state's vaccine timeline.
The report concluded that with precautions such as masking and keeping students in small group cohorts, "transmission risk within schools appeared low, suggesting that schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts in place".
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients called on Congress to pass additional funding to ensure schools have the resources necessary to support reopening.
"The latest finding from the CDC that schools are safe, do not contribute to significant virus spreading and that vaccinating teachers is not required to safely reopen schools is consistent with everything the Baker-Polito Administration has recommended for school districts since the Department issued the reopening guidance last summer", said Colleen Quinn, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education. "It also includes much-needed funds to support the learning and social, emotional needs of our kids in what has been an extremely, extremely hard year".