Teachers will be vaccinated immediately after the elderly and vulnerable with the priority cemented in an agreement between educators and the government, Times of Malta can confirm.
The decision is part of a series of issues ironed out during talks that ended a two-day teachers’ strike on Friday evening.
In a joint statement with state, Church and private schools’ educators, the government said it would be assuring priority for teachers in its COVID-19 vaccination programme though it did not elaborate.
But Malta Union of Teachers chief Marco Bonnici has told Times of Malta teachers will be the first of the third group to get the jab, with vaccination to start once the vulnerable and the elderly are given their doses.
“The health authorities had mentioned this in passing early on but later dropped the idea and teachers were no longer going to be given priority.
“Following Friday’s agreement, the government has assured us that it will vaccinate teachers sooner and will be offering the jab right after the vulnerable and elderly groups,” Bonnici said.
Though exact time frames are still somewhat fluid, with health sources saying a lot depends on the vaccine’s uptake and doses available, if the current plan stays in place, teachers could start being offered the jab around the end of February.
Jab to be given after vulnerable, elderly groups
Although with the agreement in place, teachers have been given assurances, government sources have expressed concern other groups could soon demand to also be moved up the list. Groups like those in the disciplined forces, for instance, could also insist they are on the frontlines and should be given the jab sooner, the sources said.
Around 1,400 COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the first week of Malta’s vaccination campaign, which began on December 27.
The pace of the rollout has since increased, with authorities predicting they will have administered 4,000 doses by the end of week two, 8,000 doses by the end of week three and 16,000 doses by the end of week four.
Malta registered a record number of coronavirus cases on Saturday while two other patients died, bringing the death toll to 232.
What else is in the teachers’ agreement?
The government and teachers have also agreed to step up contact tracing in schools, something which educators feared was not up to par.
According to Bonnici, the government has pledged to double the number of people on contact tracing teams for schools.
From around one person per school, there will now be “at least two” people monitoring. The government also pledged to monitor the situation closely on medical certificates so as to curb abuse.
Meanwhile, weekly meetings will also start being held, with the union as well as the Church and independent schools’ associations to be handed thorough information on the COVID-19 situation in every single school. This information was not being supplied during the first term.
“This gives everyone a good idea of what is really happening and allows us to take decisions accordingly,” the MUT chief said.
Children are set to return to school on Monday, with the health authorities and the government saying this will help to bring the number of new COVID-19 cases down.