Vadim Belobrovtsev: Why teachers are reluctant to be vaccinated?

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Vadim Belobrovtsev (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Vaccination is a personal decision. We cannot force anyone to be inoculated using a particular vaccine. That said, immunization of teachers is important from the point of view of schools, students and parents and helps ensure continued studies until the end of the school year," Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vadim Belobrovtsev writes.

Vaccination of teachers has become a popular talking-point in recent weeks. The topic became especially hot when it turned out not all teachers want to be inoculated. What is noteworthy is that the media is attaching special emphasis to teachers of Russian schools when it comes to people refusing to be vaccinated. Protest moods, narrow-mindedness or lack of information are given as reasons.

By now, around 3,000 Tallinn school workers have said they want to be vaccinated, which is around 50 percent of general schools staff in the capital. However, those who do not have their reasons.

The AstraZeneca vaccine currently offered to teachers has not been recommended for use for people over the age of 65. Estonia's 2020 medical efforts hero Dr. Arkadi Popov has said as much. Popov said, appearing on Postimees' webcast last Friday, that AstraZeneca vaccine trials only included 4 percent of people over 65.

In other words, medical journals have not published enough results of serious studies when it comes to use of the vaccine on elderly people. Hence Popov's clear recommendation to avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine when inoculating people over 65.

People over the age of 60 make up 19 percent of Tallinn teachers. It needs to be admitted that the relative importance of elderly teachers is greater still in Russian schools.

It is understandable when people who have reached that age are apprehensive of the AstraZeneca vaccine and take their doubts to family doctors, schools' medical workers and other specialists. Where they are often told to avoid the vaccine and wait for [new deliveries] of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine instead. In other words, what we are dealing with is not a whim of teachers but rather legitimate caution.

Employees of schools who refuse to be vaccinated often say that they have already recovered from COVID-19 and should have so-called natural immunity or the necessary antibodies.

Director of the Tallinn Lasnamäe High School and the Lasnamäe Russian High School Andrei Kante said on the "Kohv+" morning program of ETV+ on Monday that around 50 percent of the employees of his schools (including non-academic staff) want to be vaccinated. Those who refuse are usually over 65 years of age or have recovered from COVID-19, while they also include people who do not trust the AstraZeneca vaccine and prefer to wait for an alternative.

Director of the Tallinn Läänemere High School Deniss Presnetsov has said that around a third of his teachers have recovered from COVID-19. These people should have enough antibodies in their system and should be immune to the disease for some time.

That is why Presnetsov has proposed testing people for antibodies before deciding whether to immunize people and using which vaccine.

Vaccination is a personal decision. We cannot force anyone to accept a particular vaccine, whether we are talking about teachers, police officers, medical staff etc.

However, what matters is that half of Tallinn's education workers will get their first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks and the second in eight weeks' time. Vaccination of teachers will start in districts where the infection rate is highest.

School employees have been assigned a priority in the vaccination process that should be seized as immunization is an efficient measure for getting rid of the virus next to remote learning and use of protective masks. Immunization of teachers is important from the point of view of schools, students and parents and helps ensure studies can be continued until the end of the school year.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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