Prepared by The Association of Independent Schools NSW (AIS)
FOR NSW INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS
PUBLISHED 17 JANUARY 2022
Including Staff and Student Vaccinations
What is the deadline for booster shots – 3 months after the second dose?
The requirement for school staff to be fully vaccinated remains unchanged. It is anticipated that the definition of fully vaccinated will be updated in the Public Health Order (PHO) to include a booster shot.
The deadline to get a booster shot will be determined by NSW Health, and we may have this information later this week. If there is an imposed deadline (say 4 months from 8 November which was the mandated double vaccination date) you may need to provide periods of leave without pay for or staff who have only just received their second dose to be able to return to school i.e. they may be able to come to school until the deadline and then exit on leave without pay (LWP) until they can have a booster.
What will happen after the current Education PHO expires on 22 March?
We do not have this information but understand that the intention of the State Government is for the mandate to continue through an extended PHO or through other legislation. However, we cannot confirm this at the moment.
Are there any record-keeping obligations for schools?
Schools are required to ensure that all staff and contractors on site are vaccinated. This means that they should be asking staff for evidence of vaccination through the provision of their vaccination certificate or immunisation record. Schools may sight the evidence and make a record of it or request a copy which is a reasonable approach because fraudulent certificates were an issue in the early days of the mandate. Schools should keep vaccination records securely as they are sensitive health information.
Some schools have placed staff who are unvaccinated on leave. Will those staff need to be vaccinated this term/year?
Presently, unvaccinated staff/contractors cannot attend school or school venues until 22 March. This PHO will likely be updated shortly to require staff to be double vaccinated with a booster by a certain date. It is unlikely that staff who are presently unvaccinated will be able to attend in Term 1 considering the vaccination timeline of 4 weeks between vaccination 1 and 2 and 4 months (or less) between vaccination 2 and the booster – this may amount to 4-5 months.
If a staff member has an exemption, with a risk assessment can they be on site? If they also have a mask exemption, then other staff may not feel safe, so how would that be managed? If they work with food and have a mask and vaccination exemption, can they work with food?
A valid medical contraindication certificate allows a staff member to be at work (onsite at school or school venue) without breaching the PHO. Whether or not the school can meet its work, health and safety obligations is a separate assessment and should consider how the risk of the staff member transmitting COVID and contracting COVID. It is established that unvaccinated persons carry a higher viral load, so they contract COVID more easily and are more likely to transmit COVID. A staff member who is unvaccinated and cannot wear a mask would be very high risk. We are not aware of anything preventing such a person from working with food but the school’s risk assessment should take that into account along with other factors such as proximity to other staff, and hygiene measures. The school may determine the risk to be unacceptable.
Can a teacher continue face to face teaching if unvaccinated but has confirmed past infection with SARS-Covid-2 with an exemption certificate from their doctor?
Yes, if the exemption is a valid medical contraindication on the appropriate form. Again, the school may determine the risk to the teacher and students unacceptable from a WHS perspective.
Will vaccination be compulsory for students? Can schools make vaccination compulsory?
We have no information to suggest that vaccination will be mandated for students. Schools are legally able to impose a vaccination mandate. This could be difficult to enforce for current students as it is a change to the enrolment conditions that could be challenged. It will be easier to impose vaccination as a condition of enrolment for new students. This is a matter for each school.
What is the legal position for schools seeing and/or collecting student vaccination data?
Student vaccination is not mandatory and this impacts on the requirement to provide evidence of vaccination. Evidence of vaccination can be requested but not required.