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Vax Policies – Questions Finally Answered

Before entering any detailed consultation on school policies which would continue the vaccination mandate for school staff in SA, the IEU sought answers as to the evidence-based rationale for such a move.

Last night I finally received a response from the Catholic Education Office (CESA) and an independent school that satisfies that demand.

The letter to CESA from CPHO Professor Spurrier was supplied without further comment. The Independent Sector has also received an equivalent letter. The Professor says, in part,

Vaccination against COVID-19 provides a reduction of serious disease, hospitalisation, and death in individuals, and can also significantly reduce the chance of acquiring the infection and passing it on to other people. 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. Vaccine effectiveness against serious illness is still robust.

The Professor was quite detailed in her 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.

The UK Health Security AgencyCOVID Surveillance Report of 24 March 2022 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 (17, 18, 19, 21).

The Nature Medicine article on Infectious viral load in unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals …” has found that that viral loads are reduced for the Omicron variant where the infected person has received the booster.

There was 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.

Consultation is not over once the model is chosen. There will need to be input into the drafting of any eventual policy.

I extend my thanks to all who have engaged in this important issue.

Glen Seidel