This is a difficult problem for parents. Although they want their children to return to the 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 participate in violation of health orders. It is now a Level 1 exposure site associated with dozens of infections.
But when Victoria marks our vaccination goals, the balance between risk and reward shifts in favor of learning in school. The state government must explain what measures will be put in place to make this possible, including greater ventilation in schools and possibly mandatory masks indoors. It should make it as easy as possible for children aged 12 and over to be vaccinated.
An increasingly convincing proposal is that the government order all employees to be vaccinated and prioritize access to vaccinations. This is already happening in NSW, where all school staff must be vaccinated before 8 November. US President Joe Biden is pushing for it in the United States. In Victoria, a breakaway group of delegations from the Australian Education Union, representing staff at public schools in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, have called on the government to do the same.
There are arguments about civil rights, but as a society we generally accept that in some high-risk workplaces, such as health and childcare, individual choices of the common good are outweighed. The same can be argued for schools.
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has indicated that compulsory vaccination for school staff is being considered. It should be part of his schedule — so we can get our long-suffering children back in the classrooms.
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