Teachers keen to get a COVID vaccination are facing waits of one to two months for appointments despite calls to prioritise education workers to receive the jab and a new study showing widespread public support for priority vaccines.
With repeated school closures impacting student learning and families, the Australian Education Union is calling for teachers to receive priority access to vaccinations.
"There is no longer any excuse to delay. The federal government must prioritise teachers, education support staff, and principals for COVID-19 vaccination," said AEU Victorian Branch president Meredith Peace.
Teachers working at schools with disabled or medically vulnerable students can be prioritised to receive the vaccination with a letter from their principal, but even with the letter, many have reported lengthy delays in accessing an appointment.
Ms Peace said a survey of almost 1100 people showed teachers and support staff had the most support for vaccine prioritisation.
Almost 80 per cent of Australians said vaccinating teachers and education support staff was extremely or very important, and almost three quarters of respondents said early childhood educators should also be prioritised for the jab.
After what should have been 21 days of on-site learning during term three, teachers and students have only been face to face for eight days.
The state's last two lockdowns have in part been called after COVID infections spread quickly through school communities, first infecting teachers then being passed on to students.
Principals agreed it was vital for teachers to be vaccinated but had mixed feelings on whether they should be prioritised ahead of other essential workers or vulnerable groups not already on the priority list.
"I don't want to push ahead of more vulnerable people however the teachers are working very hard to keep kids engaged in school and we come face to face with a lot of people in our school every day in the course of being on site," said Sebastopol Primary School principal Michelle Wilson.
While schools can control most interactions with their community and the public, Ms Wilson said not every situation could be safeguarded.
"No matter how much we advise and have COVID-safe practices and QR codes there are often people still coming on site ... and delivery drivers from Melbourne are a key one. They stop at the door and drop off deliveries but deliveries are big and bulky we open door for them - it's a complex thing to manage.
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"Schools are complex environments and at the heart of it is our kids. We are really committed to our kids feeling safe and supported and they don't reflect on this time as adults as something scary."
Delacombe Primary School principal Scott Phillips said staff were encouraged to get the vaccination and "ideally in the current situation we'd like everyone to get vaccinated if we could" but said other groups of workers also needed priority.
"I think anyone that can get ahead of the queue and get vaccinated in an industry where they make regular contact with people should, but there's a lot of other people there like grocery workers that are just as important," he said.
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