The Department of Education said on Monday, September 27, that the Philippine government would require teaching and non-teaching personnel who will participate in the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the agency’s legal department conducted a long study which resulted in its stand for mandatory coronavirus inoculations.
“I believe that if we will push through with this pilot study, we must ensure that the teachers, the staff, the officials who will deal with children, have to be vaccinated,” Briones said in a mix of English and Filipino during the virtual ceremonial signing of joint guidelines by the DepEd and the Department of Helath (DOH) on the limited in-person classes.
“This was agreed on by the Deped and DOH that vaccinations should be there to ensure the safety of our children,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
The health department added that the vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. backed the recommendation, while the National Vaccines Operation Cluster already called on local government units (LGUs) to fast-track the vaccinations of public and private school teachers.
The development came after the agency said on September 20 that COVID-19 inoculations will not be a requirement for teachers.
COVID-19 tests not required
The DOH also said a regular, mandatory COVID-19 test for teachers is still not on the table.
“We still follow our risk-based testing protocols. We do not recommend the regular testing of students and even teachers and non-teaching personnel in order for them to go to schools,” Vergeire said.
She added that the government is fully aware of the possibility of infections in schools.
“There are contingency plans that are being drafted already, and this will be a separate guideline from this joint circular by the DepEd and DOH just in case of infections that will happen,” Vergeire explained.
“We are anticipating that if ever there would be infections, we would be able to manage because of the protocols we are going to institute,” she added.
No final date yet
The government has yet to decide on the actual date of the pilot run of the limited face-to-face classes.
The DepEd has also yet to release a list of schools that are chosen for the limited face-to-face classes, but it said that 638 schools were recommended by its regional offices.
As previously disclosed by the DepEd, a total of 120 schools will take part – 100 of which are public, and 20 of which are private. Of the 100, five are senior high schools that require the need for workshops and laboratories, while 95 are elementary schools, whose participants are learners from kindergarten to third grade.
Education Undersecretary Anne Sevilla guaranteed that additional budget would be given to schools picked to take part in the in-person classes.
“Mayroon po talaga tayong nakareserbang budget for this implementation of face-to-face classes,” Sevilla said. “Alam natin na mayroong dagdag na precautionary at contingency na plano kaya atin po silang susuportahan.”
(We have funds reserved for the implementation of face-to-face classes. We understand that this program entails additional precautionary measures and contingency plans so we need to support chosen schools.)
As of September, the Philippines was one of the last two countries in the world that has yet to reopen schools since the pandemic caused a near-standstill in early 2020. – Rappler.com