Educator organization concerned over schools' vaccination requirement

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Vaccinating. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of Education and Research wants unvaccinated teaching staff to be tested for the coronavirus every week. However, some educators are outraged that the ministry is trying to pressure them to getting vaccinated.

An organization called Haridusvaldkonna Esinduskoda has been established to stand up for the interests of educators in employment law issues, and currently has around 180 members.

Kätlin Telvik, a member of the organization's board stressed that it was not an anti-vaccination association.

Telvik said: "We want to be a partner, against the enemy we all have in common. We want a wider debate on this issue in society. How to stop the spread of the virus together, and to ensure everyone's safety without neglecting or violating fundamental human rights. We are concerned that the aim of this measure may be to indirectly oblige teachers to get vaccinated."

The risk of infection for an unvaccinated person is five- to six-times higher

Adviser to the Ministry of Education and Research Jürgen Rakaselg refuted Telvik's claim that the same number of people who are not vaccinated contract the virus as those who have been inoculated. Referring to data from the Health Board (Terviseamet), he noted that the virus is often brought in to a school by an unvaccinated staff member or other school employee. Rakaselg added that weekly testing is intended as an alternative for those who cannot, or do not want to, get vaccinated.

"It would seem disproportionate to test all people as regularly. The cost-effectiveness of this is certainly not justified. Choices must be made where the risk is greatest. There is not the slightest doubt that among unvaccinated people, the risk is five- to six-times higher," he said.

Professor Irja Lutsar, the head of the government's scientific council, which advises it on COVID-19, also told ERR on Tuesday that vaccinated people have a five-times lower risk of infection.

Kätlin Telvik said she was concerned that at some point some teachers might lose their jobs, because they did not agree to be vaccinated.

"Although we do not have a situation of 'compulsory vaccination', we have already been approached by a number of our members who say that their employer requires vaccination. Many teachers are already concerned about what will happen to us if we do not agree to this," Telvik said.

Teachers won't be obligated to get vaccinated

Jürgen Rakaselg rejected this fear, saying there is no obligation for educational staff to get vaccinated. However, there may be individual workplaces where the employer decides that a safe working environment can only be ensured by vaccinating its staff. This presupposes that the employer is convinced that there is no way to reorganize the work instead, however.

Rakaselg said:"We had some cases in the spring where people who gave up the mask and other safety measures, for example, were very resolute. They were indeed warned of termination of the working relationship," adding that no one has lost their job in Estonia due to vaccination refusal.

However, Kätlin Telvik says she is outraged that the letter sent to the minister on August 4 has not yet been answered. Rakaselg said the reason was high workload ahead of the beginning of the new school year. An answer must by law be received within 30 working days after receiving the letter.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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