School & District Management From Our Research Center

3 in 10 Educators Haven’t Gotten a COVID Booster Shot

By Mark Lieberman — May 05, 2022 3 min read
Unvaccinated and vaccinated cutout people with vaccine syringe. Illustration showing 3 out of 10 not boosted.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

One million people have died of COVID-19 in the United States. Millions more, including as many as 20 percent of educators, suffer from long-term COVID symptoms. But almost a third of principals, and district leaders haven’t gotten a COVID-19 booster shot, new survey data show.

Some non-boosted educators believe a booster won’t provide them additional protection or that it isn’t worth the potential side effects. Others aren’t worried about the threat COVID poses to their health.

Fully vaccinated Americans age 12 and older last fall became eligible for their first booster shots. In March, people above age 50, immunocomprised people, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients became eligible for a second booster shot four months after their first.

Numerous research studies in the U.S. and other countries show a third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine offers a significant increase in protection, particularly against severe illness and death, compared with the initial two doses.

COVID-19 cases are on the upswing again, just a few months after the Omicron wave raged nationwide. A handful of schools in Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, and Washington have closed temporarily in recent days after outbreaks among staff and students.

But only 70 percent of teachers, district leaders, and principals had gotten a COVID-19 booster shot as of last month, according to an nationally representative survey of 374 district leaders, 305 principals, and 384 teachers conducted March 30 through April 8 by the EdWeek Research Center.

By contrast, roughly half of eligible Americans have gotten at least one COVID booster, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That amounts to 46 percent of the fully vaccinated population, though some estimates outside the CDC are higher, and the agency has said it may be undercounting booster doses due to data complications. Regardless, booster uptake in the U.S. lags well behind Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The reasons for educators not getting boosted vary considerably, according to the survey. The most common reason cited, among 29 percent of respondents, was the belief that they don’t need more protection because they already had contracted COVID. Nineteen percent said they don’t believe they need more protection because they had the prior COVID vaccines.

Both of these statements are based on false assumptions. Studies show that booster shots are more effective than initial doses at protecting against the Omicron variant, and that additional vaccine doses provide longer-lasting immunity than antibodies from a COVID-19 infection.

Vaccine hesitancy and COVID denialism are also playing a role. One-quarter of nonboosted respondents to the EdWeek survey said they trust vaccines in general but don’t trust COVID vaccines. Fifteen percent said they don’t believe boosters are effective. Eight percent said they believe boosters would harm their health.

Thirteen percent said they don’t believe COVID is a threat to their health, and 7 percent said they don’t believe COVID is a threat to people around them.

Practical concerns are also fueling booster reluctance for some educators. Eighteen percent of nonboosted respondents said they don’t want to deal with more vaccine side effects.

Two percent said they don’t have access to enough paid leave to recuperate from side effects. The Biden administration last year tried as part of an employer vaccine mandate to require employers to offer employees four hours of paid time off to get a vaccine, but later withdrew the proposed rule after a federal court struck it down. Some school employees have drained sick time or been forced to take unpaid leave for pandemic-related absences.

Not everyone who hasn’t been boosted is against doing so. Fourteen percent of educators who haven’t been boosted yet said they intend to but haven’t gotten around to it. Experts blame scattershot government messaging and dwindling funding to ensure vaccine doses are free for all.

The bulk of recent COVID deaths among vaccinated individuals have been among people who haven’t had a booster shot, according to a Washington Post analysis.

education week logo subbrand logo RC RGB

Data analysis for this article was provided by the EdWeek Research Center. Learn more about the center’s work.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 'It Has to Be a Priority': Why Schools Can't Ignore the Climate Crisis
Schools have a part to play in combating climate change, but they don't always know how.
16 min read
Composite image of school building and climate change protestors.
Illustration by F. Sheehan/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty and E+)
School & District Management Some Districts Return to Mask Mandates as COVID Cases Spike
Mask requirements remain the exception nationally and still sensitive in places that have reimposed them.
4 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
Chalk drawings from last August remind students to wear masks as they arrive at school.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
School & District Management Women Get Overlooked for the Superintendent's Job. How That Can Change
Three female superintendents spell out concrete solutions from their own experience.
4 min read
Susana Cordova, former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Susana Cordova is deputy superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Allison V. Smith for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion You Can't Change Schools Without Changing Yourself First
Education leaders have been under too much stress keeping up with day-to-day crises to make the sweeping changes schools really need.
Renee Owen
5 min read
conceptual illustration of a paper boat transforming into an origami bird before falling off a cliff
wildpixel/iStock/Getty