/ 2 December 2021

A TEACHERS’ group called for the repeal of a resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases that requires all private and public sector employees to be fully vaccinated before physically reporting to work.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers said that the order is “punitive and burdensome” and does not encourage or enable workers.

“The government is going about its vax drive all wrong. Coercing the public to get vaccinated—aside from being violative of rights and freedoms, as well as of a number of existing laws and policies—will not drive up the government’s inoculation rate, because it doesn’t answer the root of the problem. Number one is the slow procurement and administration of vaccines. Next is the lacking information drive. Ang mahirap sa gobyernong Duterte, dinadaan lahat sa puwersahan sa halip na gawin nito ang trabaho niyang tugunan ang mga kakulangan sa programa nito na tugunan ang mga agam-agam ng mga hindi pa o takot magpabakuna,” Raymond Basilio, the group’s secretary general, said.

According to reports received by ACT, teachers in several regions have been informed by DepEd officials that they will be required to either be vaccinated or to shoulder their own regular Covid19 tests once they participate in the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes.

ACT is concerned that the IATF policy will become another hurdle in the “already delayed and lagging” school reopening.

“Such policy essentially passes onto teachers the burden to ensure the safe conduct of in-classroom learning, which may hamper the reopening of more schools. Vaccination is an important protective measure against Covid19, which is why we strongly encourage teachers and the general public to get vaccinated—and so is regular testing. It’s not one or the other. Both of which should be ensured by the government through provision of opportunities and sufficient information, not through the imposition of a coercive and punitive policy of mandatory vaccination,” Basilio said.

The government, he noted, must improve its inoculation program without violating basic human rights and freedoms.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: vaccines are not pre-requisites to the safe reopening of schools. This has been proven by experiences of many other countries who were able to reopen schools before vaccines became available. Regular testing, sufficient ventilation in classrooms, provision of ample PPEs, provision of minimum protective measures and support for teachers and students—these have all been proven to be crucial in preventing Covid19 outbreaks in schools,” Basilio said.