Teachers lobby to be in COVID-19 vaccine priority group

Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT branch secretary Mark Northam has called for teachers to be included as critical workers in the second phase of the vaccine rollout. Picture: Supplied
Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT branch secretary Mark Northam has called for teachers to be included as critical workers in the second phase of the vaccine rollout. Picture: Supplied

Teachers and support staff at schools and early childhood services should be added to the priority group of critical workers for vaccination against COVID-19, the union for teachers in independent schools says.

Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT branch secretary Mark Northam said educators should be vaccinated in at least the second phase of the vaccine rollout in order to keep schools operating in 2021.

"The reason we are advocating for our members on this issues is teachers and support staff in 2020 did a sterling job in keeping schools open," Mr Northam said.

"The communities that they serve recognise that and they don't want education to be disrupted."

Under Australia's COVID-19 vaccine national rollout strategy, phase one, will include quarantine and border workers, front-line health staff and aged care and disability care staff and residents.

Critical and high-risk workers including defence personnel, police, firefighters, emergency services and meat-processing workers form the second part of phase one. This stage of the rollout will also target the elderly, people with underlying conditions and other health care workers.

The first part of phase two encompasses adults from 50 to 69 years old, Indigenous adults and other critical and high-risk workers.

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Priority groups were based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

The Department of Health was contacted for comment.

Mr Northam said it was not about teachers jumping the queue or going against medical advice but trying to avoid learning losses caused by outbreaks in schools.

He said vaccinating teachers would not prevent a shutdown if a student came to school infected but it would help make sure adults delivering the education didn't become seriously ill.

Since the onset of the pandemic in Australia, more than 50 NSW schools and almost 20 early learning centres have had to close because of a confirmed case.

In the ACT, Lyneham High School briefly closed after a student was diagnosed in March last year.

Mr Northam said schools could play a role in educating their communities about the vaccine rollout.

On Monday, the NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced a change to restrictions so that parents of kindergarten, year 1, year 2 and year 7 students would be allowed on school grounds for the first day of school.

This story Teachers lobby to be in COVID-19 vaccine priority group first appeared on The Canberra Times.