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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Interior on Thursday announced it will require staff and faculty of Bureau of Education (BIE) facilities to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The announcement said vaccination against Covid-19 is the leading health strategy to end the deadly virus. The requirement is a means to ensure the safety of students, teachers and tribal communities, the statement said. 

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“Getting school communities vaccinated – including school staff and eligible students – will go a long way in preventing outbreaks before they happen and help to ensure students can remain learning in-person at school,” the announcement said.

The Covid-19 mandate is detailed in Secretarial Order 3402 requires educators at all BIE-operated elementary schools, secondary schools, off-reservation boarding schools and peripheral dormitories must receive either a single-dose Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized or approved Covid-19 vaccine (such as Johnson & Johnson or comparable future vaccines) or both doses of a two-dose FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine (such as Pfizer, Moderna or comparable future vaccines) no later than Oct. 15, 2021.

Thursday’s mandate is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that educational institutions take action to provide for the vaccination of all teachers and staff, in addition to other mitigation measures, such as masks and social distancing.

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According to the announcement, the Interior recognizes that education plays a critical role in promoting equity in learning and health, particularly for Indigenous communities that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

The United States has a direct interest in protecting American Indian and Alaska Native children, including their education, as part of its trust responsibility. This vaccination requirement will help ensure American Indian and Alaska Native students continue to safely receive the invaluable benefits afforded by the BIE‑operated schools.

The Interior Department is the latest agency within the Biden-Harris administration to implement vaccine requirements for members of its workforce. Recently, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and Defense announced plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for personnel.

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