Teachers and school employees should be included in groups prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations to allow the return of children to schools around the globe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
In a statement on Monday, UNICEF said the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on children’s education, and vaccinating teachers is a critical step towards putting it back on track.
“UNICEF is calling for teachers to be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once frontline health personnel and high-risk populations are vaccinated. This will help protect teachers from the virus, allow them to teach in person, and ultimately keep schools open,” the UN agency said.
UNICEF said that in late April 2020, school closures disrupted the learning of almost 90 percent of students worldwide.
While that number has dropped since, the agency noted that there continues to be an “unsupported assumption that closing schools may slow the spread of the disease, despite increasing evidence that schools are not the main driver of community transmission.”
“As a result, as cases are skyrocketing in many countries around the world, communities are again closing schools. As of 1 December, classrooms are closed for nearly 1 in 5 schoolchildren globally – or 320 million children,” it said.
While the agency recognized that decisions about vaccine allocation ultimately rest with governments, it stressed that the consequences of extended missed or impaired education are steep, especially for the most marginalized.
“The longer children remain out of school, the less likely they are to return, and the more difficult it is for their parents to resume work,” it said.
“These are difficult decisions that force difficult tradeoffs. But what should not be difficult is the decision to do everything in our power to safeguard the future of the next generation. This begins by safeguarding those responsible for opening that future up for them,” it added.
Some countries have closed schools amid the rapid spread of the more contagious coronavirus variants.
In the Philippines, some groups have been pushing for the resumption of limited in-person classes in areas with little to no COVID-19 cases for students’ better learning.