Teacher unions support extra Covid-19 boosters before school returns – Stuff

Teacher unions support calls for access to second Covid-19 booster shots for teachers ahead of school returning later this month.
In December, Stuff reported school teachers and child carers have had the highest Covid-19 case rates among any occupational group in Aotearoa according to data from the Ministry of Health.
However, unlike those in the aged care, health and disability sector, teachers are not eligible for a second Covid-19 booster unless they meet additional requirements.
“Having those measures there for people who want those measures would be very helpful,” said Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) Te Wehengarua Melanie Webber​.
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Currently, second Covid-19 boosters are only available to people aged 50 years and over; Māori and Pasifika aged over 40; residents of aged care and disability care facilities; and those over 16 with significant underlying medical conditions or disabilities that increase their risk of severe illness.
Doctors can prescribe second boosters to patients based on their clinical assessment.
Webber supported opt-in access to additional boosters for teachers under 50 who were not otherwise eligible.
“We know teachers have the highest rates [of Covid-19 infection] because we have so much people contact.”
School teachers had the highest rates of infection at 41%, followed by 38% for child carers. That compared with 30% to 33% for those in the health care sector who had access to masks and other personal protective equipment.
This was likely because teachers were exposed to groups with a slower vaccine roll-out, for example five to 11-year-olds, and were not consistently mandated to wear masks, increasing the risk of Covid-19 spread.
A Manatū Hauora spokesperson said public health measures in place for managing Covid-19 such as vaccine eligibility were regularly reviewed by the Ministry of Health.
”When supported by the evidence, we have moved to expand access to additional vaccine doses, and we will continue to review and adapt our Covid-19 vaccine strategy, including vaccine eligibility.
”At this stage, based on available evidence, there are no immediate plans to expand access to second boosters,” the Manatū Hauora spokesperson said.
The risk of severe illness from Covid remained low to those who have had a first booster dose and their focus remained on increasing booster uptake in general, especially among vulnerable groups, the spokesperson said.
Webber said high teacher case rates from last year were “concerning”, and it had a significant effect on schools with both teachers and students absent as case numbers soared.
Mark Potter, New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa president and Wellington’s Berhampore School principal, supported anything which improved the safety and wellbeing of the workforce.
It stood to reason that teachers were “vulnerable” working at the centre of their communities, and while he acknowledged he was not a health expert, he thought it would be a good move.
Helen Hurst​, acting hautū (leader) operations and integration for the Ministry of Education, said all schools and kura would have their own plans to protect staff and students.
The ministry had distributed thousands of CO2 monitors and air cleaners to improve ventilation, which schools can request from the ministry at no cost, as well as masks, Hurst said.
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