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Every teacher requires a blue card, so why should a life-saving jab be any different?

Opinion

The question of mandatory vaccination for Queensland teachers is just the first hurdle the government must navigate in the coming months, writes Madonna King

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Every teacher, who walks inside a Queensland school gate, needs a blue card.

It’s an insurance, of sorts, that our children will be safe; that those filling their minds with curiosity and wonder have been screened.

No outrage exists about that; it’s a simple policy that also extends to volunteers and contractors and even guest speakers. And that’s despite the fact that those workers are rarely left with a child, by themselves.

On those occasions when a child has been sexually assaulted, or hurt, and those responsible have held a blue card, we deserve to be angered and disappointed. Rules are made to bolster protection.

So why would the COVID19 jab be any different? And of all the revelations here, about the need for all teachers to be double-vaccinated by the start of the school year, the most shocking is the number of teachers still to roll-up their sleeve.

Why wouldn’t they want to protect the children in front of them? Why wouldn’t they want to protect themselves, and the families they return to each afternoon? Why would 10 percent of teachers – about 6000 of them in this State – be reluctant to get the jab?

Catching the coronavirus is more likely than a sexual assault in a school yard, and the move by Queensland simply matches mandated coronavirus vaccinations in the States.

It’s sound policy in a pandemic, and is the first step towards ensuring our schools can operate, as freely as they can, next year.

But if this move is controversial, what will happen when the Palaszczuk Government moves to mandate vaccines for students, aged over 12, and attending school? Because surely that needs to be the next step.

Do you want your children, already vaccinated as recommended, to be sitting in a Maths class with an anti-vaxxer? Or playing cricket in the same team as three other classmates, who have not received a single jab?

This is the issue now confronting parents, and schools.

Indeed, several schools across the south-east are now altering timetables for early next year, in a bid to ensure key events might be held before any wide outbreak. This is part of the 2022 planning, in a bid to navigate a pandemic which keeps changing the rules.

School lessons are being looked at. So are individual learning techniques. Split playgrounds. Divided lunch breaks.

The year 12 formal is also an example, and several schools – public and private – are now looking at venues that might be available months earlier than in previous years. This is because of a belief we might get a window of freedom early next year, before COVID19 and whatever strain is then in fashion makes an unwelcome visit.

But let’s say students are required to be vaccinated (as they should be). Each student – boy or girl – is allowed to take a partner to their formal. But won’t they need to be vaccinated too?

That question was posed twice to me this week, as schools – like employers and charities and sporting codes – try to navigate new territory.

It’s not only formals either. What about debating competitions between schools? Sports competitions? Swimming clubs? Sewing classes?

And what happens, if and when people refuse to be vaccinated? It was going to be a disaster, one senior educator said this week. Another said while work was being done, a solution seemed impossible, at this stage.

That’s because anti-vaxxers also make up school communities, and in the last month some schools have had a taste of the fury that can be unleashed in their direction over vaccine discussions.

How should schools deal with that; the ugly response that will follow any rule that dictates all school attendees, without extenuating circumstances, be vaccinated?

We’ve seen, at rallies, gallows as props and unfathomable abuse being directed at politicians and policy makers and GPs, over vaccines.

The potential for community unrest, whether it’s over the back fence or the continuing ignorance on show at weekend rallies, will only grow.

That’s why the Palaszczuk Government needs to provide a clear and transparent guide now. And it’s why teachers need to be the leaders here, and ensure they are fully vaccinated for the start of the school year.

Teachers have been given notice. And those who refuse the double-jab – without legitimate and extenuating circumstances – don’t have our children’s best interests at heart. And they don’t deserve to keep their job.

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