6 Oct 2021

Debate over mandatory teacher vaccination continues ahead of government decision

7:30 pm on 6 October 2021

Many parents want to see teachers forced to get vaccinated to be in the classroom with young children who cannot be but others think it would be a far too heavy-handed approach.

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Photo: 123RF

Chris Hipkins who is both Minister for Covid-19 Response and Education Minister said Cabinet will discuss the issue on Monday and announce a decision shortly after.

Janine Yuan is a mother of two in Auckland - one of her boys is 11 and the other is four. She hopes her son can return to school as normal and thinks teachers getting vaccinated is vital.

"It's not only to protect the students and also can protect the teachers themselves because I think students come from different families and no one knows whether they have been vaccinated or not," she said.

Another Auckland mother of three Lydia did not want to see teachers being forced to get vaccinated but she thinks communication is important.

"We can analyse the situation and tell them what will happen if they decide to have the injection or not, but it's their own decision."

Principal of Waterview Primary School in Auckland, Brett Skeen, said it's a decision for the government to make on whether it should be mandatory for teachers to get vaccinated, but more clarity would help.

He said it seems that it is no longer a Covid elimination process so the more people that get vaccinated the better.

Pukekohe Intermediate School principal Gary Sweeney agreed unvaccinated teachers may put children at risk and was also keen see some more clarity from the government.

"Whether it takes that approach or whether it goes for a more voluntary approach, I'm sort of sitting on the fence a little bit about around that but if I was a parent, and I am and I'm an employer as well, I think it makes sense to be vaccinated as teachers."

Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Stephen Lethbridge is encouraging all people who are in front of kids to get vaccinated.

At the moment those aged under 12 cannot get the vaccine but Lethbridge said there are ways to mitigate the risks.

"Vaccination is an important thing. Ventilation, opening doors and windows and classrooms to get good airflow, making sure that there is separation and classes ... those are the things that we are awaiting from the ministry."

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government has been consulting the education workforce and a decision is on the way.

"If I was a teacher, I would certainly be making sure that I was getting my first dose of the vaccine at this point," he said.

National Party leader Judith Collins said the government should pass on the MedSafe advice to as many teachers as fast as they can.

"I much prefer to have people being able to understand and agree to vaccinations rather than mandating if possible."

Hipkins said other options being considered over the next week include more frequent testing for unvaccinated teachers and PPE requirements.

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