From 3 January, teachers who have not been vaccinated by 30 December will be on unpaid leave, the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI), which is responsible for education, said. It is not yet known how many of the teachers have refused vaccination. The government does not expect serious operational problems due to teachers refusing to get vaccinated, said Zoltán Maruzsa, State Secretary for Public Education.
The deadline for teachers to receive the compulsory vaccination was 15 December, “but after that, they will receive a reminder to take the vaccine within 15 days.” The regulation applies to establishments where vaccination is mandatory, meaning public education. In the case of kindergartens, the majority are run by municipalities and not all teachers insist on vaccination due to staff shortages.
State Secretary for Public Education Zoltán Maruzsa could not yet tell how many of the teachers are clearly refusing the vaccine, but it seems that the number of those who have a medical certificate stating that they are not recommended to receive the vaccine for health reasons is increasing. He also said that 3-400 teachers had been vaccinated every day during December, but that the final figures would not be available until early January.
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Zoltál Maruzsa believes public education will not collapse even if unvaccinated teachers will be out of the system. “I am confident that those who have not yet done so will take advantage of the vaccination until the end of the year. […] I don’t think the system will collapse. We are not in a position to allow masses of unvaccinated teachers to teach in schools. […] In addition, where there are many unvaccinated teachers, classes have to be closed because the teaching staff could fall out. Either we successfully complete the process of protecting schools now and the next semester can continue with in-person education, or there may be significantly more closures in the coming months,” he said.
It is important to add, however, that vaccinated teachers might have a difficult time if their unvaccinated colleagues leave: based on the Minister’s decision, in order to ensure the safe organization of the school year, the number of hours per week for teachers and master teachers can be increased to 20 hours, while in 2022, only people with proof of vaccination or medical certificates exempting them from vaccination can be employed as teachers.
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For those who have been given an immunity certificate because they were infected but have recovered, Maruzsa said, “the assessment of what level of immunity this provides, when the individual was sick, how they responded to the infection, is assessed from a healthcare, not a public education perspective. If a doctor certifies this, they can exempt the teacher concerned from the obligation.”
According to the EMMI, the government still considers vaccine-based control to be the most useful, “we are not in a position to allow masses of unvaccinated teachers to teach in schools. Vaccinating teachers is important because they meet a lot of people, children, parents, grandparents. Vaccinating them is also important for their own health and for the protection of others.”
Featured image via Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI