Pressure Mounts for Compulsory Vaccination of Teachers. Latest Guidelines.
Pressures are increasing on teachers to accept being vaccinated against Covid 19 or face sanctions. As it stands, new guidelines in Abu Dhabi impose penalties on all teachers who refuse to be vaccinated on cultural or other personal grounds, and those who are unable to be vaccinated because of existing medical circumstances.
The latest guidelines from ADEK, the Abu Dhabi Schools Regulator, for teachers requires them to have received both required Covid 19 vaccinations or face being liable for both paying the costs of Covid testing every two weeks and ensuring that they do not miss the testing deadline.
As it stands, all teachers must self-finance tests, and be tested every two weeks, in the following groups:
- Vaccinated school staff who have only received the first dose of a vaccine;
- School staff who have personally made the decision, for whatever reason, to opt out of being vaccinated;
- School staff that are medically unable to be vaccinated, including pregnant and nursing mothers and those suffering from serious illnesses.
Teachers too are also required to answer questions on their medical history and status, including those in the areas of mental illness, cancer and auto-immune related illnesses when booking vaccination appointments.
Vaccinated school staff who have received both doses of the vaccine – and who have completed a 28 day period from receiving the second dose, will not be penalised and will receive free testing.
The move to require vaccination and reveal personal medical history is being debated worldwide and is certainly not an issue unique to the UAE.
For example, some employers are already asking for the right to terminate the contracts of those employees who refuse, or are unable, to take the vaccine because of the risk that they will infect other employees in the work-place.
Many governments are balancing the antagonistic demands of needing to protect public health and to safely re-open their economies, against the rights of the individual to choose whether or not to be vaccinated. In many countries too, some nationalities of citizen or expats are much more sceptical and wary of vaccination than others.
It is an impossibly hard choice, and there is no easy answer as to which approach can be better justified.
In some countries the choice has been made to educate the population rather than insist on vaccination. In others, vaccination passports are being issued to incentivise individuals desperate to travel on holidays.
As it stands currently, whilst different approaches are being taken to the issue of whether to require teachers to be vaccinated across different Emirates, one insider told SchoolsCompared.com that they are:
“certain that the move to compulsory Covid vaccination across the UAE is ultimately inevitable and it is not inconceivable that we shall reach a point where individuals will lose their jobs if they refuse.”
We were told:
“Teachers have a critical role in society. Parents respect them. If they choose not to be vaccinated it sends out confusing and simply wrong messages that go against the needs of UAE public health and safety.
Parents and older children need and deserve to feel confident that vaccination is safe and ‘the right thing to do’ – and teachers and school leaders are in a position of responsibility where they need to set an example and educate the community in the safety and importance of being vaccinated.”
Some teachers, however, whilst in broad agreement with the approach to incentivise vaccination, have expressed concerns that those who simply cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds are being penalised for something that they cannot avoid. One teacher told us:
“Of course I would like to be vaccinated, but I cannot because I am pregnant. It is frustrating that I am being treated in the same way as those who simply refuse to be vaccinated because they frivolously don’t like needles!”
Some schools have also contacted us worried that they will be held liable if teachers miss the deadline for testing.
We have recently covered the, creditably in our view, initiative by many schools to calm nerves over vaccines, with Principals and Heads of Departments publicly stating their belief in the importance of vaccination – and sharing photographs of themselves being vaccinated. More on this here.
Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict on Compulsory Vaccination
As above there are no easy answers here. The simple fact is that the only mechanism available to governments, and individuals, to fight back against Covid-19 is vaccination. Without it, economies almost inevitably face lockdowns, deaths spiral and the broader impacts on the health of the population multiply. The fundamental challenge is educating those who are wary of being vaccinated that vaccinations are safe and important. This takes time – and many feel time is the one thing that no government, and none of us, has.
Inevitably, as governments work to incentivise vaccination, there will be those who fall unfairly through the cracks. Few would argue that those who are unable to be vaccinated through no fault of their own should ideally have access to free testing – not least because it is imperative that the highest level of testing is maintained, regardless of an individual’s ability to afford the cost. Inevitably, however, a clear approach that says if you are vaccinated you will receive benefits, and if you are not you won’t, whilst brutal, is much clearer to understand and explain – and more likely to work.
We think that the many schools that are going out on a limb to publicise their vaccination programmes and quieten the nerves of wary parents are doing a public service. They will save lives because the simple and stark formulae is that the more the population is vaccinated, the fewer the deaths. So too, the more quickly the population is vaccinated, the less room there is for the virus to mutate and bypass vaccines. As it stands, there is broad recognition that a new vaccine booster will be needed within months to fight the latest strains of the mutated virus.
In the context of education, it also means that children can get back into schools and receive the outstanding uninterrupted education they deserve. Even in schools with outstanding distance learning programmes in place, the hard fact is that education is being compromised – and where children do fall behind it becomes harder and harder, if not eventually impossible, to help them catch up. Already we are seeing whole sections of the curriculum being excised from the curriculum for some year groups, because there is simply not the time to teach it. Children, many argue, are paying the highest price of all in this pandemic.
We are still some distance from the compulsory vaccination of teachers – but the wiggle room for opting out is constricting.
So too the complexity of working through arguments for and against the rights of the individual versus society, have never been harder to bridge in the face of the sheer horror of this pandemic. No doubt it is an ethical question that will, rightly, find its way onto the exam papers of children in the years to come.
Ultimately, it seems likely that we will face a situation in the UAE in which, eventually, the choice of whether or not to be vaccinated will exist – but the consequences faced by those who choose not to be vaccinated, will carry a very high price. Individuals will need to think very hard whether that price is worth paying – and particularly when their decision, whichever way it falls, cannot but acutely effect the life chances of those around them.
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