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Teachers trade unions request vaccination priority for O/L duty and primary teachers

Following Minister of Education Prof. G.L. Pieris’s announcement that all school teachers would be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the first week of March, teachers trade unions have requested that teachers on duty at the forthcoming General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O/L) exam, along with primary school teachers, be given priority in this process.

The Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) requested that teachers on GCE O/L exam duty be vaccinated by the last week of February as the Minister’s plan to vaccinate all school teachers was “impractical” at present. The Ceylon Teachers’ Services Union (CTSU), meanwhile, said that if priority needs to be given when vaccinating school teachers, primary school teachers should be given priority.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (8), CTU General Secretary Joseph Stalin said that they have already made their request to the Ministry of Education (MoE).

“There are about 240,000 school teachers and 15,000 principals. It is not practical to vaccinate all of them immediately. So, we request that the teachers set to begin GCE O/L exam duty be vaccinated at least a week before the exam commences.”

The GCE O/L exam is set to begin on 1 March and conclude by 11 March.

However, CTSU General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe told The Morning yesterday that if priority needs to be given to a segment of school teachers, it should be given to primary school teachers.

“Primary school teachers are at high risk as small children do not always understand how to follow health guidelines properly.”

He added that the risk posed by teachers on GCE O/L exam duty is one that is limited to the Western Province, especially the District of Colombo.

“As schools are going to begin next week for the rest of the areas, the exposure to Covid-19 at exam centres is only an issue that will be faced by teachers from Colombo schools.”

He added that vaccinating all teachers is the suitable course of action. 

Addressing the media in Anuradhapura, Minister Prof. Pieris said yesterday that all school teachers are expected to be vaccinated and that the Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be distributed to all school teachers by the end of this month and the first week of March.

“In the event that we would not be able to complete the vaccination of school teachers by February, given the large amount of vaccinations taking place, the operation is expected to be completed by March.”

Discussions have been held with the Covid-19 Vaccine Committee Chairman and Senior Advisor to the President Lalith Weerathunga to prioritize school teachers in the public vaccine drive.

Vaccine Committee Member Dr. Amal Harsha De Silva told The Morning on Sunday (7) that there is a strong demand for the vaccine from private sector health care workers, medical students and nursing students following the vaccination of State sector health care workers.

A stock of 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine that can be administered on 150,000 individuals is expected to be sent by the Chinese Government before 12 February. However, the Sinopharm vaccine is yet to receive the National Medicine Regulatory Authority’s approval. So far, Sri Lanka has only received a stock of 500,000 doses donated by the Government of India that can be administered on 250,000 individuals.