Fact-Checking Randi Weingarten’s Claim About Teacher Vaccination Rates

The president of the American Federation of Teachers claims 90 percent of educators and school staff are vaccinated.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten claimed in a recent interview on MSNBC that 90 percent of AFT members had been vaccinated against coronavirus.

Weingarten has made this claim before, and in a July 26 press release stated: “More than 90 percent of the AFT’s educators and school staff, and nearly 80 percent of our healthcare professionals, are vaccinated against COVID-19, and those numbers are only increasing.”

For context, 70 percent of American adults now have at least one coronavirus shot, but only 49 percent of the total American population has been completely vaccinated. 

The Dispatch Fact Check contacted AFT senior director of communications Oriana Korin to inquire about the supporting data for this claim. She said the basis for this claim was a telephone survey performed by Hart Research Associates from March 26 to April 1 on behalf of AFT. The Hart survey does not show that 90 percent of AFT members have been vaccinated, as Weingarten claimed, but that as of April 1, 2021, 76 percent of respondents had already been vaccinated, with a further 5 percent awaiting their scheduled appointment. Further, 8 percent of AFT members told Hart they would get vaccinated in the future, while 10 percent said they definitely will not get the vaccine. In all, 90 percent of AFT members surveyed by Hart said that they had been or would be vaccinated against coronavirus, a different claim from what Weingarten suggested.

Weingarten’s claim in the press release is slightly different: She mentions “educators and school staff” specifically instead of membership as a whole. AFT membership is comprised of several categories of school employees, including paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRP), health care members such as nurses, faculty and staff in higher education, and retirees. Hart found that 73 percent of AFT members working in kindergarten through 12th grade education—teachers and PSRPs—had been vaccinated as of April 1, with 6 percent awaiting their scheduled appointment, and a further 7 percent saying they would be getting one. 13 percent reported they will not receive the COVID vaccine at all. 

In higher education, 79 percent of AFT members surveyed said they had been vaccinated or were awaiting vaccination, while a further 16 percent said they would get the vaccine at some point. A total of 5 percent working in higher education said they wouldn’t receive it.

It isn’t clear what the proportion of higher ed versus K-12 AFT membership in the survey is, making it impossible to calculate a total “educators and school staff” category based on data given, but neither category showed 90 percent vaccination rate as of April 1. 

Korin told The Dispatch Fact Check that “The original poll we did was in April, so the numbers are likely higher now.” At time of publication, Korin had not responded when asked if a follow-up survey had been performed. 

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