Parents and educators have welcomed a vaccine mandate for some staff working in early childhood settings, ACT primary schools, out-of-school-hours care and specialist and flexible education settings.
A new ACT health direction will cover teachers, early childhood educators, learning and support staff, administrators, canteen workers and cleaners who are in direct contact with children, and allied health professionals who regularly attend schools. It will apply to public and private schools.
Pre-service student teachers on placement at certain education settings will also be included in the mandate which will require first-dose vaccination will be no later than November 1, and the second dose by no later than November 29.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the decision was made to support the return of face-to-face learning for children not yet eligible for a vaccination.
"We already know through staff surveys and the total population vaccination rates that we have exceptionally high levels of vaccination in these settings," Mr Barr said in a statement.
"However, given that children under the age of 12 will be unvaccinated as school starts to return - the strong advice is that all possible measures need to be taken to surround these children with vaccinated people."
Education Minister Yvette Berry said the Education Directorate would be working with schools, unions and the early childhood education sector to put the Chief Health Officer's direction into operation.
"We already know most of our staff have been vaccinated. A recent survey of school staff indicated percentages in the high 90s, but this will give parents, students and staff extra assurance that we're making their schools as safe as possible."
She said staff who did not want to get vaccinated would be redeployed to other positions not in contact with vulnerable people.
If staff cannot be vaccinated for health reasons they can seek an exemption from the Chief Health Officer.
Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said she had weighed up the potential benefits for the Canberra community and the human rights implications for individuals.
"In this case the specific implications for me were looking at, we had a group of people who were particularly vulnerable because they were under 12 years of age and because they were not able to access vaccination through no fault of their own," Dr Coleman said.
She said the widespread voluntary take-up of the vaccines among teachers was also considered before making the health direction.
Australian Education Union senior industrial officer Patrick Judge said the union supported any measures required to keep members safe and only a small number of people who were unable to be vaccinated would be affected.
"We wouldn't anticipate that there'll be a great deal of change for most people from this announcement," he said.
"Most teachers and other school staff are already vaccinated and have already had their first dose but there will be some sites that are more impacted than others depending on people's ability to get the vaccines."
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations spokeswoman Janelle Kennard said many parents would be pleased to know that people coming into contact with their child at school would be vaccinated.
"We do know that some parents are very concerned about the return to school so we hope this goes towards feeling that the kids are safer," Ms Kennard said.
She said parents were hanging out for more information on how their schools would be handling the return to school.
Communities@work chief executive Lee Maiden said it was a positive step for early education and care and outside-school-hours care workers to be vaccinated.
Her organisation had already decided to make vaccination compulsory for all staff and volunteers. They will need to have two doses by November 29.
"We think it's the right thing to do. The ACT is doing so well with their vaccinations and we've been keeping an eye on how what our vaccination rates are like across the organisation and they've been fantastic as well," Ms Maiden said.
Ms Berry denied the mandate was in reaction to hesitancy from some parents to send their unvaccinated children to school.
School staff have had priority access to Pfizer vaccination appointments since early September.
The NSW government decided in late August that vaccinations would be mandatory for school staff from November 8.
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