UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 are collecting information on teacher prioritization within national COVID-19 vaccine deployment, including data from the UNESCO/UNICEF/World Bank Survey on National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures and the OECD.
Globally, 72% of countries (146 of 204) have included teachers in one of several priority groups to be vaccinated in national vaccine rollout plans. Yet while the protection of teachers is essential for schools to reopen safely, they were allocated to the first priority group with frontline workers in just 19 or about 10% of countries worldwide; this includes high-income countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, middle-income from Central Asia such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and low-income countries including Cambodia, Rwanda and Uganda.
Teachers were not allocated to any priority group in 29% of countries (59 of 204) meaning they are to be vaccinated according to other national criteria (e.g. age, health status, other). This includes countries from all regions; however, it is also the case for almost 1 out of 2 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Previous evidence suggests that widespread vaccinations could extend until 2023 in some of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, which provides a strong rationale for prioritizing teachers in these more vulnerable countries.
Progress varies in the pace to vaccinate teachers
Implementation of vaccine rollout plans varies among countries. UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 are currently conducting a global data collection on proportions of teachers that are fully vaccinated both under national programmes and those under the auspices of the COVAX programme.
High-income countries that prioritised teachers tend to also have high proportions of vaccinated teachers, including 100% in Chile and in Portugal, 95% in Qatar and 90% in the United Arab Emirates.
Various middle and low-income countries that allocated teachers to the first priority group, have also vaccinated more than 90% of primary and secondary teachers, including 99% in Morocco, 95% in Cambodia and 80% in Mauritania.
Despite varying levels of prioritisation within vaccine rollout plans, fewer than half of teachers are vaccinated in Bosnia and Herzegovina (47%), Bulgaria (30%), Georgia (36%), Indonesia (39%) and Mongolia (43%). In Uganda, where teachers were allocated to the first priority group, just 16% are vaccinated.
Teacher vaccination rates can be relatively low in countries where teachers are not prioritised. In Algeria, just 9% of teachers are fully vaccinated and the same is true for 12% of teachers in Venezuela.
A new health and vaccination management tool
UNESCO has launched a new health and vaccination management tool, OpenEMIS Vaccinations, through a partnership with Community Systems Foundation (CSF), a Global Education Coalition member.
OpenEMIS can help countries track who is vaccinated to promote a safe return to schools. Modules facilitate the recording of health information for school personnel and can also generate reports to track progress of COVID-19 testing and/or vaccination campaigns in schools
Prioritizing teachers in COVID-19 education responses
The call to prioritize teachers in COVID-19 education responses is not new. As early as March 2020, the International Taskforce on Teachers for Education 2030 launched an international Call for Action on Teachers to highlight critical measures that countries should take to support teachers in the global pandemic, including the protection of teachers’ and students’ health, safety and well-being.
This was reaffirmed during the Extraordinary session of the Global Education Meeting, convened by UNESCO in October 2020, where Heads of State and Ministers committed to support all teachers and education personnel as frontline workers, and to prioritize their health and safety.
On 14 December 2020, UNESCO and Education International urged countries to include teachers as a priority group in national vaccination rollout plans to curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect teachers and students in an effort to ensure the continuation of learning and a safe return to in-person teaching.