Teachers shouldn’t face threats from anti-vaxxers
Anyone who has seen the horrific effect of lockdown on vulnerable children is desperate for schools to remain open. So teachers are celebrating the decision to offer one dose of the Pfizer vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds.
If it prevents children missing more school and allows them to feel again a sense of belonging, friendship and fun while keeping them within sight of adults looking out for their best interests, it sounds like a good thing.
But schools are already being threatened by anti-vaxx pressure groups harassing them over the issue of vaccinating children. A number of school leaders who are normally happy to speak to me about education issues have refused to talk about vaccines because they fear having their name attached to such a story will provoke more abuse and protests.
Campaign groups are sending schools letters threatening legal action to try to intimidate them from being involved in the vaccine programme. All this, and the roll-out has not even started yet.
It is shameful. Schools have been put at the front line of the vaccination programme and they need the Government’s full support to deal with any protests, accusations, threats or abuse that come their way because of it.
It must be made clear that headteachers have played no part in making the decision to offer vaccines to children — so there is no point in protesters focusing their fury on schools.
How the thorny issue of consent will be handled must be clearly spelt out to parents, who will understandably have many questions about the process. It must not be put in the hands of school staff to navigate this contentious issue, but be decided on by skilled medical professionals.
Teachers are already carrying much of the burden of the pandemic — trying to help anxious children catch up on missed work and repair the damage caused to vulnerable youngsters by the lockdown.
It makes sense logistically that jabs are given out in schools — children won’t have to miss hours of lessons by travelling to and from vaccine sites, schools are used to the admin involved in mass vaccinations and children scared of needles can be given pastoral support from teachers they trust. But it is vital that schools are not turned into a Covid battleground.