IEU Response to CESA: Vaccine Mandate Policy Consultation
14 April 2022
Dr Neil McGoran
Catholic Education SA
CC to Susan Young
Re: Vaccine Mandate Policy Consultation
I acknowledge receipt of a copy of the letter from Professor Spurrier to yourself dated 12 April.
I note the Professor gives general advice and thankfully with some citations. She says in part
The most up-to-date evidence on this suggests that while there is reduced vaccine effectiveness with Omicron compared to prior variants, full vaccination still provides considerable protection against infection and onwards transmission1, albeit with some waning over time2.
The IEU’s consistent position has been that in order to be supportive of employment conditions more restrictive than in current public health directives, we required evidence-based answers to two fundamental questions which went essentially to the efficacy of maintaining a vaccination mandate in excess of prevailing directives.
The IEU is unwaveringly supportive of maximising vaccination levels in adults and children, but we needed some science-based convincing that if the previous mandate was no longer needed in schools, why it would be needed in Catholic (or any other) schools. I sense the CPHO’s response went to what would be a good thing to do, rather than an essential thing to do.
The CPHO’s advice to you finally starts to address some of our concerns for an evidence-based rationale and clear expert health advice.
The Professor was quite detailed in her general support of vaccination on many grounds, but of particular relevance to the IEU’s questions were links to two recent reputable reports providing the sort of evidence-based rationale the IEU sought in order to formulate its advice to members. This member advice has now been distributed.
The UK Health Security Agency – COVID Surveillance Report of 24 March 2022 COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report – week 12 – GOV.UK on page 10 comments on evidence for the effectiveness of vaccines in limiting transmission.
There may be additional benefit, beyond that due to prevention of infection, if some of those individuals who become infected despite vaccination are also at a reduced risk of transmitting (for example, because of reduced duration or level of viral shedding). Several studies have provided evidence of reduced risk of household transmission from vaccinated cases compared to unvaccinated cases
The Nature Medicine article on “Infectious viral load in unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals... “ https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-01816-0 has found that that viral loads are different for the Omicron variant and only reduced where the infected person has received the booster. From the abstract on P2.
Full vaccination (defined as >2weeks after reception of 2nd dose during primary vaccination series) significantly reduced infectious VL for Delta breakthrough cases compared to unvaccinated individuals. For Omicron breakthrough cases, reduced infectious VL was only observed in boosted but not in fully vaccinated individuals compared to unvaccinated subjects. In addition, infectious VL was lower in fully vaccinated Omicron- compared to fully vaccinated Delta-infected individuals, suggesting that other mechanisms than increased infectious VL contribute to the high infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron.
Professor Spurrier provided no deeper analysis of the risks posed by unvaccinated students to the community. There was strong support for maximising student vaccination and the risk was recast as the risk to students by unvaccinated staff rather than the other way around.
Now that we have some science and more detailed health advice on which to base our decisions, to continue with a mandate via policy ceases to be unreasonable and unsupportable.
The three options for schools remain as
- Do nothing and allow unvaccinated staff to return with no restrictions
- Allow unvaccinated staff to return with restrictions (DfE model)
- Maintain the mandate and do not let unvaccinated staff return (Catholic proposal)
Whichever model is supported by local school communities (apart from the “do nothing” model) will need to be enshrined in policy that is clearly and fairly drafted with a review date.
The IEU would expect to have input into the drafting of any eventual policy (whatever the eventual model).