Teachers’ unions have expressed concerns over the return to face-to-face teaching for pregnant teachers who have yet to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), say they are engaging with the Department of Education in relation to a circular on the return to workplaces for education staff.
Unvaccinated pregnant teachers should be facilitated to work remotely if they wish until they have the opportunity to acquire significant vaccine protection, according to Martin Marjoram, TUI president.
"Pregnancy can be a stressful time and pregnant teachers have the significant added worry and anxiety of returning to crowded schools and classrooms."
Pregnant teachers are “incredibly stressed out” about the return to school, especially given the high transmission rates of the Delta variant, according to Kieran Christie, the general secretary of the ASTI.
A number of pregnant teachers, who have yet to be fully vaccinated due to being in the early stages of pregnancy, have written to thein recent days expressing concern about returning to classrooms.
The Department of Education previously directed pregnant education staff to work from home as a precautionary measure while medical specialists assessed the guidelines for pregnant employees.
Published last month, this updated advice was prepared in consultation with the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
A spokesman for the department said: "Such advice is applied across the entire public service and relies upon the expertise of those qualified to recommend such protocols based on the most up-to-date information available to them at the time.
"The department will continue to work closely with all of the education partners and public health specialists so that schools will continue to be supported when they reopen for the 2021/2022 school year."
Kieran Christie of the ASTI called on Education Minister Norma Foley, to “have another look” at the position of unvaccinated pregnant teachers.
“The minister has a wider duty of care to these teachers,” he told RTÉ.
Teachers who are not yet 14 weeks pregnant could not be vaccinated, he said, adding that the minister’s party colleague, Senator Lisa Chambers, had called for “a relook” at the situation.
A spokesman for the INTO said the arrangements have caused anxiety for some of its members.
"We urge the relevant departments to highlight and reiterate the public health advice which has informed the information detailed in circular 0042/2021 in order to provide reassurance to teachers who have not yet had the opportunity to register for vaccination.
"We are advising any pregnant member who has specific concerns to contact their GP/doctor and to follow their medical advice."