Describing the Morrison government’s vaccine rollout as an “absolute shambles”, the AEU continues calls for education staff to be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccines.
It is imperative that education staff be vaccinated as soon as possible to manage the return to face-to-face teaching while minimising the risk of transmission to staff and students, and their families. This risk has been further exacerbated by the Delta outbreak, which has seen several schools closed, staff and students in isolation, and far more young people contracting COVID-19.
The AEU has consistently and vigorously campaigned for the federal government to prioritise education workers in preschools, schools and TAFE for vaccines. “There is no longer any excuse to delay,” says AEU Victoria president Meredith Peace. “Frontline educators have gone above and beyond to keep students engaged with learning during this pandemic. The federal government must prioritise teachers, education support staff and principals.”
There has been some reports of non-government schools forging their own agreements regarding vaccine supply. The lack of clarity around these arrangements is troubling. It is vitally important that all Victorian education settings have equal access to vaccines – something that has broad public support. This is the only way to ensure the safety of all educators and the students in their charge.
“The failure of procurement, logistical coordination and communications have left our entire community at risk. Education staff are essential workers.”
AEU Victoria president Meredith Peace
An Essential Research survey conducted in late July found the vast majority of Victorians agree it is vital that all school staff are vaccinated with the utmost priority. More than half of those surveyed said it was “extremely important” that all school staff were vaccinated against COVID-19, with a further 27% deeming it “very important”. The figures were similar for early childhood staff, with 46% saying it was “extremely important” and 29% “very important”.
Educators were identified as the biggest priority group after those already classed as essential workers: namely emergency service, healthcare, aged, disability, quarantine and border workers. The results were borne out nationally, with almost four in every five Australians identifying vaccinating teachers and education support staff as extremely or very important, and almost three quarters supporting the same push for early childhood educators.
“The vaccine rollout, for which the Morrison government has responsibility, has been an absolute shambles,” Peace says. “The failure of procurement, logistical coordination and communications have left our entire community at risk. Education staff are essential workers.”