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As school reopenings continue, some teachers feel like they're choosing between safety and security

The push to vaccinate teachers from COVID
The push to vaccinate teachers from COVID 04:33

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. could start vaccinating high school students against COVID-19 this fall, and younger students early next year. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is pushing to make the vaccine available for all teachers by the end of March — which the CDC says is not required for the safe reopening of schools.

Vaccinations are just one way to stop the spread in schools, according to the CDC, but teachers' unions across the country say masks and social distancing are not enough, and not requiring vaccinations could mean teachers will not show up for work.

CBS News' Meg Oliver spoke with teachers in Massachusetts who said they are faced with a choice — put themselves and their families in danger, or risk losing the job they love.

"I worry about myself getting sick, I worry about kids getting sick," Peabody High School biology teacher Corey Manuel said.

He usually begins prepping his class just before 7 a.m. Since going back to school in December, he has been teaching a hybrid model, spending half of his day in person and half virtually.

That day, he only had one student attend one class.

He said the hybrid model of teaching just did not feel the same.

"It's disheartening," he said. "I can't hand out materials, I can't collect materials, I can't put the desks together in small groups."

About eight miles away at Saugus Middle School, his wife Jess Manuel is making sure her students adhere to health guidelines, having returned to her classroom just a week ago.

"Good morning, friends at home and friends at school!" she said to her hybrid class. 

At the time neither teacher had been vaccinated, despite both being in the classroom.

Asked how he felt about returning to school, Corey said he was "anxious about every part of it," adding that it felt like a risk but he felt he had no choice. 

"It was that or not get paid," he said.

The couple has three children learning virtually at home. They live with Jess' parents, and all they wanted before returning to school was a shot in the arm.

Corey said being vaccinated against COVID-19 before he returned to school was "the biggest thing."

"There's been a lot of talk of teachers not wanting to work and not wanting to go back to school," Jess said. "I can promise you that I have not devoted 15 years of my life and I don't have three advanced degrees in education because I don't like kids and I don't want to go back to school."

"A lot of people have said, why can't teachers go back when grocery workers have gone back or health care workers have gone back even before a vaccine was developed?" Oliver said.

Corey replied that the situations were different.

He continued, "Ideally, everybody should be vaccinated. It's difficult to feel like an afterthought when states are saying, OK, here's the date you're going back, and then a week later, OK, we'll figure out when we can get teachers vaccinated. That's a frustrating situation."  

The situation is emotional as well — three hours before the couple say down with CBS News, Jess got her long-awaited inoculation.

"This is a game-changer," Jess said at CVS. "The fact that I got here — I feel like I won the lottery!"

She said the feeling of finally being vaccinated is "unbelievable."

"It feels like the first time I've taken a really deep breath in a long time," she said through tears. "I really feel like it was this page that turned. It's just a little bit shinier, like there's just a little bit more hope there."

That feeling of hope continued on Sunday, when Corey Manuel sat down for his first shot.

Peabody High School has been social distancing, encouraging hand-washing and giving PPE to students and teachers since last year. 

Out of caution, however, Corey said he will only send his own children back to school once he gets a second shot. 

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