This is a difficult issue for parents. While they want their children to return to classrooms, they do not want them to get COVID-19, even though it is mostly a milder disease for children. Fitzroy Community School in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North, invited children to attend in breach of health orders. It is now a tier 1 exposure site linked to dozens of infections.
Yet as Victoria ticks off our vaccination targets, the balance between risk and reward will shift in favour of in-school learning. The state government needs to explain what measures will be introduced to make it possible, including greater ventilation at schools and possibly compulsory masks indoors. It should make it as easy as possible for children aged 12 and over to be vaccinated.
An increasingly compelling suggestion is for the government to mandate that all staff be vaccinated and be given priority access to vaccinations. This is already happening in NSW, with all school staff to be vaccinated by November 8. US President Joe Biden is pushing for it in the US. In Victoria, a breakaway group of Australian Education Union delegates who represent staff at state schools in Melbourne’s inner suburbs has called on the government to do the same.
There are arguments around civil liberties, but as a community we generally accept that in some high-risk essential workplaces, such as health and childcare, individual choice is outweighed by the common good. The same can be argued for schools.
Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated that mandatory vaccination for school staff is being considered. It should be part of his road map – so we can get our long-suffering children back into classrooms.
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