Thousands sign petition to prioritise vaccinations for educators

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Executive Director Tony Farley has urged the NSW Government and Premier Gladys Berejiklian to prioritise vaccinations for all staff at its schools.
Executive Director Tony Farley has urged the NSW Government and Premier Gladys Berejiklian to prioritise vaccinations for all staff at its schools. Photo: Sydney Catholic Schools

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Almost 5000 people have signed a Sydney Catholic Schools online petition for teachers to be considered frontline workers and be given priority for a COVID vaccine.

Executive Director Tony Farley has urged the NSW Government and Premier Gladys Berejiklian to prioritise vaccinations for all staff at its 150 schools not just the 43 in the Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown Local Government areas currently recording high COVID numbers.

Anger among the respondents to the petition include “education IS essential”, “teachers deserve to feel safe at work and children need to feel safe at school when asked to return face to face learning” and “teachers don’t have an option to work from home and care for children of essential workers”.

La Salle Bankstown Religious Education Coordinator and Industrial Technology teacher Peter Strudwick was one of the first to get vaccinated due to working in a COVID hotspot and said that while he is grateful to be given priority, he agrees that all school staff should be vaccinated as a matter of priority.

“Every day, we are in the frontline and potentially putting our families at risk if we come to school, it just doesn’t seem right not to be able to have the jab.”

The young father of two children, who lives in the Sutherland Shire, said he was caught between a “rock and a hard place” as he was being vaccinated yet other teachers in his neighbourhood were not.

“All teachers just want to get back to the classroom and feel safe, it’s as simple as that, but they can’t while they can’t get vaccinated,” he said.

“Every day, we are in the frontline and potentially putting our families at risk if we come to school, it just doesn’t seem right not to be able to have the jab.

“There are a lot of students who would be very anxious at the moment and it is difficult that I can’t be there face-to-face with them.

Anger among the respondents to the petition include “education IS essential”, “teachers deserve to feel safe at work and children need to feel safe at school when asked to return face to face learning”. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Anger among the respondents to the petition include “education IS essential”, “teachers deserve to feel safe at work and children need to feel safe at school when asked to return face to face learning”. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“Connecting with kids online is a real challenge and I, like all teachers, want to get back to the classroom and help those kids who really are struggling at the moment.

“I have a wife and young family and the last thing I want to do is pass the virus on to them or anybody else I come into contact with.

“It just makes sense for all teachers to be vaccinated so we can get back to the classroom and our students.”

Mr Farley has written about why SCS staff should be given immediate priority here:

“Surely avoiding a crisis is much better than managing a crisis and yet the current approach to vaccinations in education appears to favour crisis management …”

“Enough is enough, school staff are essential frontline workers and they deserve to be treated and protected as such – all school staff across the state must be given access to vaccinations immediately.

It doesn’t make sense for priority to be given to education frontline workers only when the virus has run out of control in their communities and that’s why all school staff must be vaccinated now.

Surely avoiding a crisis is much better than managing a crisis and yet the current approach to vaccinations in education appears to favour crisis management rather than crisis avoidance.

At the moment, only school staff in the three local government areas (Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury Bankstown) are given priority for vaccinations.

La Salle Bankstown REC and Industrial Technology teacher Peter Strudwick, one of the first to get vaccinated due to working in a COVID hotspot, agrees that all school staff should be vaccinated as a matter of priority.
La Salle Bankstown REC and Industrial Technology teacher Peter Strudwick, one of the first to get vaccinated due to working in a COVID hotspot, agrees that all school staff should be vaccinated as a matter of priority.

No other school staff across metropolitan Sydney have priority and must wait with all other members of the community for the vaccine despite being frontline workers.

It’s important to remember that every one of our schools remains open for the children of essential workers and for those students that must attend for other reasons. Even in the midst of remote learning we need teachers on site.

Sydney Catholic Schools can facilitate vaccinations in our 150 schools across Greater Sydney immediately at no extra cost to the taxpayer – we already do this with flu vaccinations and we can do it with COVID. We have private providers ready to commence the process immediately.

School based vaccinations are more efficient, cost less because staff don’t have to leave the school site for their vaccination and be replaced and safer because it doesn’t involve staff moving unnecessarily around Sydney.

“Enough is enough, school staff are essential frontline workers and they deserve to be treated and protected as such.”

If the government makes available the Pfizer vaccine for all our school staff, we can have more than 10,000 frontline education workers vaccinated within 3-4 weeks.

If it works in our schools, and it will, the opportunity to do the same in literally thousands of schools across the state is one that will surely boost our vaccination coverage and effort – everybody wins and it costs less as well.

We would be more than happy to extend this offering to school families which could be done just as swiftly and safely and result in a massive increase in community vaccinations.

Getting our school staff vaccinated as soon, as quickly and as safely as possible just makes sense. It’s a common sense community solution to the health crisis that’s staring us in the face and the government needs to let us make it happen now.”

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