«If we, those who are considered mature and responsible, cannot give children the emotions of the first ring of the school bell, we must preserve the opportunity to attend the school every day, throughout the school year. To be able to do this, we will have to vaccinate and test teachers and school staff for free for several more years. It's a reality we all need to accept.».
Today is the first day of the school year in our country. With 20 months of life experience during the pandemic, we had to be fully prepared for the new school year with students being presented in the classroom.
We should have, but we didn't, and this is indirectly confirmed by the public debates on the latest decision of the National Pandemic Commission of August 24, 2021.
We will not consider the provisions of this document paragraph by paragraph here. I will try to bring a different vision and approach, supporting it with some simple suggestions and solutions.
Why is it important for teachers to get vaccinated?
It was on the day of the fiercest debates about the vaccination of teachers in Moldova that the American news agency, namely CNN, published a material - a case from a school in California.
The elementary school teacher had cold symptoms, which he attributed to allergies and did not associate with infection. The teacher came to work, although he apparently had symptoms of COVID-19, and then took off his mask to talk to the students. The teacher was not vaccinated.
As a result, this unvaccinated teacher, who took off his mask just to talk to students, ended up infecting more than half of them. Infected students continued to infect other schoolchildren, family members and community members. In a class of 22 students, 12 people became infected, including eight out of 10 students sitting in the two front rows.
This is just one example of how easy it is to undermine efforts to protect children who are still too young to be vaccinated.
Our main goal is to protect children from infection. To protect children, we need to keep the pandemic under control.
Vaccinating teachers, support staff and technical staff in schools is one of the measures to combat the pandemic.
It is good and important to recognize that it is not the only one now.
Wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands remain simple but important measures to control the spread of the virus.
Testing returns to full force
Statistics from recent periods clearly tell us that vaccinated people remain exposed to the virus and may be asymptomatic carriers, infecting other people. At the same time, new strains are more contagious and resistant to antibodies. Accordingly, testing is an effective measure to ensure early detection of infected people in school. Testing is mandatory for both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated.
Science is progressing rapidly, and thanks to research, we have rapid tests at our disposal to ensure early detection of those infected, shortly isolate potential outbreaks, and keep virus transmission under control.
Ideally, teachers and students should be tested weekly.
To ensure continuity of learning process in schools, in the face of the pandemic, it is important to ensure that both teachers and students are tested regularly. This does not mean excluding the vaccination of those who may be vaccinated. Vaccination and testing should not be mutually exclusive. These two tools for monitoring the pandemic process must be applied simultaneously.
Who pays for the tests?
The biggest discrepancies arose from the requirement to force teachers to pay the cost of tests from their own pocket. What surprised me, was that trade unions and representatives of local authorities were involved in the conflict with the Ministry of Health, but representatives of the Ministry of Education were not involved.
According to the rules, the Ministry of Health had to prepare an instruction, submit it for consideration to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, representatives of local administrations, trade unions and other institutions involved in ensuring the educational process in schools. On the interdepartmental platform, it would be good to discuss all medical, technical, financial, organizational aspects, including ethical ones. Through multilateral consensus, an instruction on the beginning of the new school year was to be approved.
I personally believe that costs for testing teachers, and perhaps students, can easily be covered from school budgets in the same way that the costs of detergents, disinfectants and other supplies are covered in this pandemic.
Organizationally, support for primary medicine is required, with the delegation of a specialist every week to each school to do rapid tests to teachers. A nurse at school can be easily trained in this process, if any.
I don't think it's fair to try to monetize everything in this pandemic. We cannot monetize the value of lost lives. We can't monetize the value of class hours, lost by children. We cannot monetize the value of the socialization and live interaction of our children with each other, lost during the pandemic. We cannot monetize the value of development and its impact on the lives of the younger generation, affected by the pandemic process. But certainly, we can monetize the value of the tests needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on children in the future, and we can easily find sources to cover those costs.
September 1, 2021
Today is a special day. A new school year begins. The festive ceremony is banned due to the alarming rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases.
Those who pass the threshold of school for the first time will not remember this day by the first sound of the school bell. Emotions are important to these children, and we have already deprived them today. Our children are not to blame for this pandemic. Safety in school and continuity of the educational process still very important.
If we, those who are considered mature and responsible, cannot give them the emotion of the first ring of the school bell, we must preserve their ability to attend the school every day, throughout the school year. To be able to do this, we will have to vaccinate and test teachers and school staff for free for several more years. This is a reality that we must accept.