Covid-19: Teachers will not be required to show proof of jab

Unions to call for unvaccinated pregnant staff to be allowed work remotely

 All schools will be issued with detailed guidance for the safe reopening of schools on Wednesday of this week. Photograph: iStock

All schools will be issued with detailed guidance for the safe reopening of schools on Wednesday of this week. Photograph: iStock

 

Teachers will not be required to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 when they return to the classroom.

Instead, school staff are being strongly recommended to take the Covid jab or register for vaccination without delay.

The Department of Education has confirmed in talks with teachers’ unions that there will be no vaccine mandate for school staff, according to sources present at recent meetings.

EU countries are taking different approaches to the vaccination of teachers.

The Italian government, for example, is requiring that teachers have proof of immunity from Covid-19 before re-entering the classroom, while the French government has rejected such a move.

In the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, president Biden’s chief medical adviser on Covid-19, has said that vaccines should be mandatory for teachers, citing the need to protect children who are too young to be vaccinated.

California, however, is the only US state so far to issue a vaccine mandate for all teachers in public and private schools.

Pregnant staff

Teachers’ unions in Ireland, meanwhile, will call on the Department of Education in meetings this week to allow unvaccinated pregnant teachers to be allowed to work from home until they are fully immunised.

Pregnant women are currently advised to take the Covid-19 vaccine between 14 and 36 weeks of their pregnancy.

As a result, many pregnant teachers say they are worried they will be exposed to the virus in crowded classrooms in the early weeks of their pregnancy when the school year resumes.

Revised public health guidelines state that it is safe for most pregnant teachers to attend the workplace unless they have an underlying medical condition.

This is a change to guidelines introduced earlier this year, which permitted all pregnant teachers to work remotely due to concerns over links between Covid-19 and stillbirths.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation estimates that up to 1,600 pregnant staff are either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, but these numbers will fall over the coming weeks.

The department has said the revised guidelines, which were changed in mid-July, were based on advice from specialists at the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Teachers’ unions are due to meet department and public health officials this week to do discuss the reopening of schools.

Safe reopening

Separately, all schools will be issued with detailed guidance for the safe reopening of schools on Wednesday of this week.

A department letter sent to school principals in recent days says public health authorities have advised that the new Delta variant of Covid-19 does not change the safety measures required.

As a result, schools will be required to continue operating last year’s infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing, hand sanitising and ventilation of classrooms. Funding will be provided to schools for these measures.

On ventilation, the letter states that all school classrooms will be supplied with carbon dioxide monitors, which the department says can play a part in providing a general indication when rooms may not be adequately ventilated.

The monitors – at a cost of €4 million – will be distributed to schools in August and September.

The first batch delivery of monitors will start in the week commencing August 23rd and schools will receive their full allocation of monitors by mid-September.

Latest advice is that schools should keep windows open as fully as possible during break times or at the end of the school day, and partially open when in use.

School transport will continue to operate this year with additional hygiene measures and a reduced 50 per cent capacity at second level. The capacity limit will be subject to an ongoing review.

All schools will be required to complete return-to-work forms, while newly appointed staff must undergo training for Covid-19 safety measures.