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Union reissues call for unvaccinated pregnant teachers to be allowed work from home

The TUI said this situation is causing “severe stress and anxiety” for affected teachers.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

A TEACHERS’ UNION has repeated calls for unvaccinated pregnant teachers to have the option to work from home until they are protected by a Covid-19 vaccine. 

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said it is “seriously concerned” for unvaccinated pregnant teachers. It said these teachers should have the option to work remotely until they have “significant vaccine protection”.

The union, and other teachers’ unions, released statements earlier this month to express their concerns about this group of teachers returning to classrooms in the coming weeks.

The TUI said this situation is causing “severe stress and anxiety” for teachers who have been advised that they should not receive a Covid-19 vaccine until they are at least 14 weeks pregnant.

Pregnant women are advised to wait until they are 14 weeks along before receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. 

The HSE said this is a precaution to avoid any possible association with a miscarriage, but added that there is no evidence any Covid-19 vaccine will harm the baby.

People who get their first dose before knowing they are pregnant are advised to wait these 14 weeks or longer to receive their second dose.

TUI General Secretary Michael Gillespie said this small cohort of teachers can be facilitated in working remotely “without any loss of service to students”. 

“Pregnancy can be an extremely stressful time and pregnant teachers now have the significant added worry and anxiety of returning to crowded schools and classrooms,” he said in a statement. 

Gillespie said teachers in this situation “should be facilitated to work remotely if they wish” until they have “significant” protection against the disease from a vaccine. 

“We have already set out our serious concerns in several engagements with the Department and will continue to seek to have this fundamental unfairness addressed.” 

‘Particular concern’

A spokesperson for the TUI previously said the organisation “has a particular concern” over teachers in this group.

“We have made strong representations to the Department in relation to this issue and will continue to do so,” the union said.

A spokesperson for the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) also said recently that it has “expressed concerns to the Department of Education regarding the arrangements for certain staff members who have not been given the opportunity to register for vaccination”.

One pregnant teacher who is due to return to work in a primary school recently told The Journal that she “cannot sleep at night” with worry.

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“I am constantly stressed and anxious about the return to school. I am due to get my vaccine in two weeks time which means I will not be fully vaccinated before school reopens,” the teacher said.

“I am going into a classroom with 30-plus senior infant students. These students are unvaccinated and have no comprehension of social distancing, which is also not a requirement in the younger classes.

“There are children with severe needs in my class and I have no option but to be in contact with these students.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education earlier this month said HSE guidance for the education sector confirms that pregnant employees “can safely attend the workplace in school where all the infection prevention and control measures are in place by implementation of the School Covid-19 Response Plan”.

However, the spokesperson said all pregnant employees should apply to the Occupational Health Service before the end of their first trimester “so that their individual medical circumstances can be assessed in the context of Covid-19″.

Additional reporting by Órla Ryan.

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