The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has urged the Government to allow unvaccinated pregnant teachers to work remotely until they have significant vaccine protection against Covid-19.
The union said on Monday that it was seriously concerned for those teachers who had been advised that they should not receive a Covid-19 vaccine until they were at least 14 weeks pregnant, but who, under guidance issued by the Department of Education, were nevertheless due to return to face-to-face teaching.
It said it had highlighted “the severe stress and anxiety that this situation is causing for those affected”.
The union is seeking that unvaccinated pregnant teachers be permitted to work remotely “until they acquire significant vaccine protection”, it said.
The TUI said that the return to face-to-face teaching for these teachers in the coming weeks represented “a departure from last year, where pregnant teachers were facilitated in working remotely”.
The TUI said that the Department of Education had, to date, “refused to make provision for this small cohort of unvaccinated teachers whose numbers will steadily decrease”.
TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie said on Monday: "These teachers can be facilitated in working remotely for the limited timeframe required without any loss of service to students.
“Pregnancy can be an extremely stressful time and pregnant teachers now have the significant added worry and anxiety of returning to crowded schools and classrooms.”
Mr Gillespie said the union’s specific concern was for teachers for whom the timing of their pregnancy precluded them from being vaccinated, as they have been advised that they should not receive a vaccine until they are at least 14 weeks pregnant.
He said the union had forcefully raised the issue in several engagements with the department.
On Sunday the union representing primary school teachers, the INTO, said it had asked the Department of Education that these unvaccinated pregnant workers should continue to work remotely for the number of weeks necessary.
INTO general secretary John Boyle said his members found it incongruous that they had to deal with two pieces of competing public health advice.
He said on the one hand people were being told to get a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible. However, he said that on the other hand a small group of workers – including those in early stages of pregnancy – were being told it was safe to go back to work for a couple of months and that they would get their vaccine in a couple of months and it was worth taking the risk.
Mr Boyle said his union had been urging the Department of Education to set up a hotline through which affected teachers could seek reassurance from public health experts.
Minister for Education Norma Foley said last week her department was following public health advice, including the advice of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists “in terms of catering for staff who are pregnant”.