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A teacher writing on a whiteboard (file photo) PA Images

Teachers not at increased risk of admission to hospital with Covid, study finds

When schools are open, the risk among teachers and other working-age adults is similar, research has shown.

TEACHERS ARE NOT at greater risk of admission to hospital from coronavirus compared to the general population, a study has found.

Looking at data from between March 2020 and July 2021, researchers found there was no higher risk of this among teachers than other working-age adults.

When schools were mostly closed, teachers were 50% less likely than the general working population to be admitted to hospital. When schools were open, the risk in both groups was similar.

The research was carried out jointly by Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow.

It noted that prompt uptake of the vaccine among teachers may have contributed to their protection from the Delta variant.

Dr Lynda Fenton, an author of the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), said: “Education is central to allow all children and young people to realise their potential, and teachers are a critical part of this.

“By carrying out this study, we have obtained a better understanding of the risks for teachers since the start of the pandemic. These findings contribute to the knowledge needed when making decisions about how to deliver education in these challenging times.

“While we were only able to look at the risk for teachers, it’s also important to consider other education staff when informing decision-making. That’s why Public Health Scotland are currently looking into repeating this research for Early Learning and Childcare staff and would welcome collaborations with other staff groups.”

The researchers, which looked at data from Scotland during defined periods of school closures and full openings, concluded that it was not “possible to say” why teachers are not at higher risk than the average working-age adult.

But they suggest it could be because teachers are generally healthier or more careful about Covid-19 related behaviours than other occupational groups.

Most of the teachers in the study were women (average age 42) with few underlying health conditions, researchers said.

‘Broadly reassuring’

David McAllister, professor of clinical epidemiology and medical informatics at the University of Glasgow and an author of the study, said: “Together with the finding that teachers were at lower risk of severe Covid-19, and that people who shared a household with teachers were not at increased risk, this is likely to be broadly reassuring for people involved in face-to-face teaching.

“It is important to note that during the period where the Delta variant was circulating, uptake of vaccination among teachers was high, and we would continue to encourage everyone offered a vaccine to take this up.”

The findings come as education unions have warned that a relaxation of Covid-19 safety measures this term could lead to rising infections in schools as hundreds of thousands of pupils return to classrooms across the UK and Ireland.

Schools in Scotland have already returned after the summer break and the reopening is believed to have contributed to a rise in cases north of the border.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said it was “very reassuring” that teachers have been found not to be at greater risk of hospitalisation because of Covid-19.

But she said: “Nothing in this study, however, negates the importance of vigilance in suppressing Covid transmission in schools.”

Dr Bousted added: “A spike in Covid infection in school-age children will lead to more children and staff missing school and run huge risks of viral transmission into the community where many adults do not share teachers’ general youth or good health.

“We do remain concerned about our more vulnerable members, for example those who are registered as clinically extremely vulnerable or third-trimester pregnant women. We must ensure greater protection for the many thousands in these categories.”

Irish Education Minister Norma Foley last week said her department is “following expert medical advice” by saying that pregnant teachers who are yet to be vaccinated can return to classrooms.

Pregnant women in Ireland had been advised to wait until they are 14 weeks into pregnancy before receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly yesterday announced that pregnant people are to be offered Covid-19 mRNA vaccinations at any stage of their pregnancy.

This comes after the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) made a number of recommendations to the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, who has endorsed them.

NIAC has recommended that pregnant women and adolescents from 12 years of age should be offered an mRNA Covid-19 vaccination at any stage of pregnancy following an individual benefit/risk discussion with the obstetric care giver.

In April this year, NIAC had recommended that pregnant women be offered mRNA COVID-19 vaccination between 14-36 weeks’ gestation.

NIAC has updated this recommendation based on the growing body of evidence on the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccination, a statement from the Department of Health said.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

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