COVID vaccinations ‘vital to keep our educators and tamariki safe’

The Government’s public health advice mandating that all staff in schools and early childhood centres are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the start of 2022 has been applauded by NZEI Te Riu Roa.

The union also fully supports the news that education sector staff must receive their first dose by 15 November.

“We have always encouraged our members to get vaccinated to help protect themselves, their colleagues and in particular our younger tamariki who are currently unvaccinated,” said NZEI Te Riu Roa President Liam Rutherford.

“The public health evidence is that adult to child transmission of COVID-19 is more common than child to adult.

“We back the science and the health experts, and this decision gives more clarity, certainty and consistency for schools, early childhood centres and parents right across the motu.

“From what we are hearing we are confident our members will continue to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.”

“We also have a responsibility to our members to keep as many in employment as possible by making sure they have access to fair employment processes. We will be actively working with them, schools, early childhood centres’ employers, and the Government to be certain this mandate is implemented fairly and safely.”

New testing requirements will also be put in place. All educators in level 3 regions will have to return a negative COVID-19 test before they go back to working in the schools and early childhood centres. And if they aren’t fully vaccinated in the lead up to January 1, they will need to repeat these tests every week this term.

“We need more detail from the Government about the testing regime,” said Rutherford.

“For example, early childhood centres in level 3 areas are already open. That means more than 15,000 early childhood educators will have to find the time to get tested during business hours by October 26th.”

“We already have teacher and support staff shortages, particularly in early childhood centres. Testing will have to happen in school time, so will this be paid leave and how will their ratios get covered? Will educators be able to access priority testing? The Government needs to come to the table and answer these questions.”

“I was pleased to hear the Minister say that they will support schools with managing short-term staffing needs, but the devil is in the detail and we have heard this before.”

“We and our members want a clearer path laid out on what the country’s new approach to COVID-19 will be. We need better communication from the Government and we need it quickly.”

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