NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this morning defended the government’s decision to divert Pfizer vaccines from regional NSW to year 12 school students in south-west and western Sydney, and said her back-to-school plan for senior students would have strict conditions for schools in affected areas.
“[The vaccines are for] only around 19,000 students. When you consider there are 8 million people in NSW, when you consider we have been able to stop the spread of the virus in our regions and other parts of Sydney and a massive way, it is important for us to give those year 12 students a chance to finish their exams and get rewarded,” she said.
“We are finding younger people are getting the virus and spreading it. Those older adolescents. It is a mitigation and a way of focusing our energy into [those] local government areas and that is really important.”
But the potential for teenagers to spread the virus has both the teachers union and some students concerned. NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos today said it was not too late to reassess the face-to-face return of year 12 on August 16, and called on the Premier to reverse the decision.
There is concern that not all teachers will be vaccinated if students travel across Sydney from the affected LGAs to attend school in other areas, and that the rapid antigen tests to be used on students are not currently rolled out in Australia.
Ms Berejiklian said the government would give more detail on its plan closer to August 16. “I got a briefing by health experts this morning about year 12, we will have more to say about that,” she said.
“We are working through all those issues. We’re not leaving any stone unturned… All of us accept and understand that year 12 attaining those credentials is so important. We want to reduce their stress.”
She said the government was aiming to resume face-to-face learning for year 12 “in a safe way”.
“Please know, there will be strict conditions, especially in those eight LGAs. We don’t want the situation to get worse so we’re not going to take a decision that will worsen the situation.
“From 9 August we do want to vaccinate all year 12 students in those eight LGAs… We don’t want many students on campus at the same time, especially in those eight LGAs. We will proceed on a very conservative and cautious approach.
“But our goal and our mission is to make sure that year 12 receive the HSC, that they receive the credentials they have worked so hard to achieve, and obviously health and education are working closely together.“