The ACT's chief health officer will consider ending a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for primary school and early childhood staff once vaccines are available for children under 12, a budget estimates hearing has been told.
It follows the news the principal of Charnwood-Dunlop School Rob Lans would not be returning to work after he appeared in a video alongside Senator Malcolm Roberts speaking of his opposition to the vaccine mandate.
Chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told the budget estimates hearing there had been outbreaks in early childhood settings in the ACT and Victoria was seeing outbreaks in children under 12.
"I think we do class groups of under-12-year-olds as a high-risk setting at this point in time, for that very reason that when we have big groups of children who are unvaccinated [COVID-19] will travel like wildfire," Dr Coleman said.
Dr Coleman said in making the public health direction she wanted to limit it to educational settings with children under 12.
She said the current health direction was only valid until the public health emergency was stood down.
Dr Coleman said the mandate for educators may be lifted when COVID-19 vaccines were approved for children under 12.
"We have had an amazing take-up recently, so I absolutely anticipate that children will be very similar and will follow through when it's registered by the TGA," Dr Coleman said.
"At that point in time, the risk benefit profile around this and therefore the risks to community and all those considerations on the making a public health direction have a different balance, and it may well be that it is considered to be no longer necessary to have the mandatory direction in place."
ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry refused an interview regarding the anti-vaccination video featuring the Charnwood-Dunlop principal.
In a written statement, Ms Berry said she was aware of the video and the Education Directorate was following up according to internal procedures.
"It would be inappropriate to comment on the nature of these internal processes while they are under way, but I can confirm that the Charnwood-Dunlop principal will be taking some time out of the workplace," Ms Berry said.
"Parents and carers can have complete confidence that ACT Health, the Education Directorate and schools themselves have done a tremendous amount of work in making schools ready for a COVID-safe return to on-campus learning."
Ms Berry said all school staff could continue normal duties next week as their vaccination status information would be collected before November 1.
She said all schools would publish their indoor air quality plans online by the end of this week.
When the Education Directorate was asked how many teachers would not meet the November 1 deadline for first dose and November 29 deadline for second dose, a spokeswoman said the directorate was still finalising its processes for staff to submit their proof of vaccination, apply for an exemption or seek redeployment.
The spokeswoman said parents would not be allowed to know whether their child's teacher was vaccinated or not.
"Staff are only required to provide evidence of vaccination to their employer as part of the chief health officer's public health mandate," she said.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the government was working on a set of amendments to the public health act to address COVID-19 when the public health emergency was over and it was an endemic disease. This could include ongoing vaccine mandates via disallowable instruments.
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