UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 are collecting data on the percentage of primary and secondary teachers who have been ‘fully’ (*) vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as information on teacher prioritization within national COVID-19 vaccine deployment, including data from the UNESCO/UNICEF/World Bank/OECD Survey on National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures.
(*) Fully vaccinated represents those having received the 1st dose for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 or 2nd dose for other vaccines).
Progress varies in the pace to vaccinate teachers
Implementation of vaccine rollout plans varies among countries. High-income countries tend to also have the highest proportions of vaccinated teachers, including 100% in Portugal, 98% in Chile, 97% in Sweden and 96% in Saudi Arabia. In contrast, teacher vaccination rates are lower in other high-income countries, including the Russian Federation where just 70% were fully vaccinated in December 2021.
Some countries have mandated teacher vaccination as a condition to teach, resulting in 100% of teachers fully vaccinated in New Zealand and in the United Arab Emirates. In Uzbekistan, teacher vaccination was also made mandatory with a deadline of September 2021; yet while penalties were introduced for non-compliance, just 60% were fully vaccinated by October 2021.
Various middle and low-income countries that allocated teachers to the first priority group with front line workers have also vaccinated very high proportions of primary and secondary teachers, including 99% in Morocco and 95% in Cambodia. Meanwhile, in Belarus and in Uganda, about 50% and 32% of teachers were vaccinated in December 2021, respectively. In Uganda, this rate represents a doubling in the percentage of vaccinations, which was 16% in September 2021.
About 6 in 10 primary and secondary teachers were vaccinated in Belize (61%) and in Jamaica (60%), which were both allocated to the 2nd priority group.
Teacher vaccination rates can be relatively low in countries where teachers are not prioritised. In September 2021 only 9% of teachers were fully vaccinated in Algeria, and the same was true for 12% of teachers in Venezuela. Nonetheless, other countries have made significant progress in vaccinating teachers during a short period. For instance, between September 2021 and January 2022, the share of teachers vaccinated with two shots in Mongolia more than doubled from 43% to 97%; moreover, by then 67% had also received a third booster shot. Likewise in Indonesia, the share increased from 39% in September to 72% by December 2021.
Where are teachers prioritized in national vaccine rollout plans?
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. 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). While this includes countries from all regions, it is 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.
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.