Teachers and non-teaching staff of the 120 schools identified for the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes are required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said in a media online forum on Monday the order is mandatory even if physical classes will be held in low-risk areas.
“Kami sa Department of Education, ang aming legal department gumawa rin ng pag-aaral, ano ‘yung mga (We at the DepEd, our legal department made a study on the) instances when health precautions have to be mandatory and not necessarily voluntary. When the safety of the state is concerned the survival of the country is concerned in the time of the pandemic, the state has the right to impose mandatory precautions,” she said.
DepEd had been preparing for the resumption of physical classes for over a year now but is challenged by issues on the safety of learners and teachers.
“Ako ay naninindigan na kung ating ituloy itong pilot study, kailangan (I stand by my belief that should we continue with this pilot study, there’s a need to ensure) the teachers, the staff, the officials who will deal with the children have to be vaccinated,” Briones said.
She said President Rodrigo Duterte was also specific when he gave his approval that the DepEd must ensure the pilot implementation will be consistent with health standards imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force, Department of Health (DOH), and relevant laws.
DOH – Technical Advisory Group member Dr. Anna Ong-Lim explained adults must protect the children they will encounter.
“As a child health professional, I would encourage na sana lahat ng haharap sa bata, whether sila ay nasa tahanan o nasa paaralan, isaalang-alang nila na karamihan sa mga bata ay ‘di mababakunahan (that all who will be with children, whether they’re at home or in school, they’ll consider that not all children will be vaccinated),” she said.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said regular testing is not a requirement for teachers and staff to go to schools.
Vergeire emphasized that symptomatic screening or assessment of symptoms is observed when deciding whether to test or not for Covid-19.
“Of course, we still have a baseline or medical assessment for all of these workers and teachers and students but testing will not be recommended,” she said. (PNA)