Education minister: Schools can open as usual thanks to vaccination

Liina Kersna.
Liina Kersna. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) believes that schools can continue with contact learning after the summer because teachers and older students have been vaccinated against coronavirus. Unvaccinated teachers, however, will have to start taking tests at least once a week.

"We have an overview of teachers who were ready to be vaccinated as frontline employees - 90 percent have been vaccinated with two doses. Lots of teachers have also vaccinated themselves later," Kersna said on Vikerradio's morning program.

The high number of vaccinated teachers should enable schools to reopen for regular teaching.

"We have an encouraging example from last week. When in Harju County and Ida-Viru County, schools went on distance learning, then around 40 percent of the virus outbreaks were in educational institutions. When high school classes were allowed back in school and when most of the teachers were vaccinated, the number of outbreaks stayed around 5 percent. This confirms that with vaccinated teachers, there are no outbreaks," she said.

The view is that the loss caused by closing schools is significantly bigger than the loss created by the restrictions established to stop the spread of the virus. Thus, schools cannot continue to be closed, Kersna said.

The minister also highlighted the increasing interest in vaccinating among the young - 45 percent of teenagers aged 16-17 are vaccinated with one dose in Tartu County, in Harju County the percentage is 34. "It is realistic to make it to 70 percent vaccination with these young people," Kersna said. She said that among the 12-15-year olds, there are fewer people vaccinated because the possibility to be vaccinated was opened later.

Kersna admitted, however, that the ministry or the boards of schools have no chance to find out how many teachers have been vaccinated because the corresponding information systems cannot share the information. "The draft allowing it is currently in the Riigikogu's social committee, but it's stuck there due to a political conflict," she said.

Kersna said that according to the current overview from the local government, it has appeared that the school ventilation system is better than appears in the construction registry and thus, the need for investments is smaller, but it's still big.

In addition to the €30 million allocated to the local government and schools to fix the ventilation systems, the government is planning to create an additional fund where there is €20-40 million for fulfilling the same goal.

Anti-vaccination activists should not be teaching in schools

Kersna said that in her opinion, people who deny scientific evidence, do not vaccinate or deny the existence of the coronavirus should not work in schools.

"It is important that teachers support science and teach everything based on science. This is the rule. I think that people who don't believe in science shouldn't work in schools. A teacher is always an example. Their decisions and words have a huge impact on forming the new generation," Kersna said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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