Union calls on Federal Government to include ECEC services as frontline for vaccination
The NSW/ACT Branch of the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) is calling on the Federal Government to include teachers and support staff in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and schools as frontline essential workers in a priority group for vaccination.
“It is not only in the interests of teachers and support staff to receive the vaccination but also the entire community,” IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam said.
“It takes just one case of COVID-19 to shut down an entire service, impacting hundreds, sometimes thousands, of families – disrupting learning and impeding parents and guardians’ ability to work.”
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, nearly 20 early childhood centres have been disrupted and more than 50 schools in NSW have had to close owing to confirmed cases.
As well as the impact of closure on parent’s ability to work or study, the matter of extensive contact tracing and deep cleaning before a service can reopen, which can take anything from 24 hours to several days and cost in the tens of thousands, also adds to the impact of COVID-19 on education and care services.
The IEU’s call has been echoed internationally. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Education International (EI), a global federation of teachers’ unions, has already called on governments to consider education staff as a priority group for vaccination.
In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has classified education staff as “frontline essential workers” for vaccine priority based on concerns about the social and academic effects of closures, taking the perspective that schools and early childhood centres not only teach children, they also provide mental health and social support.
In the UK, the four Children’s Commissioners have requested prioritising educators for vaccination. “It would be a vital first step in limiting the devastating impact of the pandemic on children’s rights this year, which may well have consequences for years to come,” the Commissioners said.
While the full details of Australia’s vaccination policy are still being finalised, the first group will rightly include frontline health workers; aged care and disability care workers; residents in aged and disability care; and quarantine and border officials. The second group is reported to be elderly people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 55.
“Let’s add educators and support staff to the priority list,” Mr Northam said.
The union will lobby the relevant ministers on behalf of its members for school and early childhood staff to be prioritised for vaccination, saying “it’s in the national interest” to minimise disruption to families in 2021.
For further discussion about mandated vaccination for staff in ECEC settings, please see here.