(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The COVID vaccines are a “game-changer” in reopening the nation’s public schools, Randy Winegarden, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday:

“We are serious about getting our kids back to school in a safe and welcoming way,” she said.

Asked about a vaccine mandate for teachers, Winegarden indicated that may be coming:

So let me say this as clearly as I can. We’re considering all options now, given what has just happened with the delta variant. I mean, it’s — if you look at where we were three weeks ago versus now, the world has changed. Our commitment remains the same, because kids need to be in school. And so that’s why, you know, we had to — and you’ve had me on your show, we’ve had — you know, we’ve agreed on things, we’ve disagreed on things, but we’ve always been about, how do we help kids get back to school and how do we make it safe?

You know…our members, when I do our polling, 90 percent of our members — our teacher members — have gotten the vaccine. We have helped persuade them, we’ve stood up clinics. We want to persuade the holdouts. And we — you know, up until the last few weeks, we had thought the way to do it is through persuasion, particularly since there was not full authorization of the vaccine.

But you know, what we’re doing is, we’re looking at all the alternatives because of this and, in fact, when Bill de Blasio said vaccine or test, our local in New York agreed. When Joe Biden said vaccine or test nationally, we agreed. In Denver, we agreed to that mandate. So we are trying to make sure that people are safe.

It’s part of the reason why reluctantly, I mean, we love the pediatricians, my sister is one of them, and we agreed to — obviously we need masks in schools like in Florida because kids under 12 are not vaccinated. So our goal is, we’ve got to protect the United States. But let’s stop scapegoating teachers. They’re doing everything they can. I don’t know another profession that is as highly vaxxed, and they want to be in school with their kids.

In response to a follow-up question, Winegarden said, “I am 100 percent into vaccines. I think they’re important. I think this one is safe and effective.”

She said nine out of ten teachers are vaccinated, and of those who are not — Winegarden pointed to a study showing that “some of it is ideological, and some of it is that they really don’t believe that the vaccines are safe.

“And I think full (FDA) authorization, as one of the doctors on your show earlier said, I think that’s going to open some doors. So as I said, we’re considering all alternatives, including, you know, looking at vaccine mandates, but at the end of the day, I want to lift up the fact that 90 percent, nine out of ten teachers, have already been vaccinated, and they know that it’s safe and effective.

Winegarden said the AFT is following the science, and that includes an endorsement of mask-wearing:

“If the scientists tell us that kids under 12 can’t get a vaccine, but delta is raging and it is affecting kids, but things like layered mitigation, like wearing a mask, like good ventilation, hand-washing and the kind of three feet of social distancing, which we can do, and get all of our kids back to school, then why are we not doing that? It’s about the safety.

“As you know, I’m an asthmatic, I hate wearing these things. I labor in breathing every time I wear these things. But if that’s what’s going to keep everybody safe, let’s do that. Teachers don’t like teaching in them, but if that’s what’s going to keep everybody safe, let’s do that.”

Weingarden applauded school districts that require universal masking and criticized Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in particular for banning mask mandates in Florida schools.