MIAMI -- A private school founded by an anti-vaccination activist in South Florida has warned teachers and staff against taking the COVID-19 vaccine, saying it will not employ anyone who has received the shot.
The Centner Academy in Miami sent a notice to parents on Monday informing them of a new policy for its two campuses for about 300 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Teachers or staff who have already taken the vaccine were told to continue reporting to school but to stay separated from students.
Co-founder Leila Centner told employees in a letter last week that she made the policy decision with a “very heavy heart." Centner asked those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine to wait until the end of the school year, and even then recommended holding off.
Centner stood by the decision Tuesday in a statement sent to The Associated Press, which featured the biologically impossible claim that unvaccinated women have experienced miscarriages and other reproductive problems just by standing in proximity to vaccinated people.
“These vaccines are not live COVID virus,” Dr. Andrea L. Cox, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told The Associated Press in a call. “They can’t infect the people who receive them and they can’t be spread.”
Cox also added that vaccines have not caused miscarriages in the people who got them during pregnancy.
The Florida Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment on the school’s stance on the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leading women’s health authorities have declared the COVID-19 vaccines being used in the U.S. to be safe and effective, and they are undergoing unprecedented scrutiny for safety. Around the country, teachers were prioritized for early access to the vaccines to protect them from exposure to the coronavirus as schools reopened.
Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, a gynecologist at New York University's Langone Health, said misinformation circulating on social can erode trust as demand for the vaccine sags.
“These myths are extremely damaging because they create doubt in the public at a time when everyone eligible should be getting vaccinated," Shirazian said.
Centner and her husband David Centner started the school in 2019 after moving to Miami from New York. The school's website promotes “medical freedom" from vaccines and offers to help parents opt out of vaccines that are otherwise required for students in Florida.
Earlier this month, Centner criticized measures by the CDC to curb the spread of the virus, and said her school went against the guidelines from the moment it reopened in September.
“We did not follow any of the tyrannic measures that were in place. I did not force our kids to wear a mask,” Centner said while attending a “Health and Freedom” rally for a Republican candidate that featured supporters of former President Donald Trump and critics of public health restrictions in Tulsa, Oklahoma.