Hungary: ETUCE Member organisation calls for teachers to be among priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination

Information current: 06 January 2021

The COVID 19 outbreak is a public health crisis quite different than anything Europe has faced for many years. As education personnel and their trade unions grapple with the outbreak, we are supporting and informing member organisations in any way we can.

As early childhood education and primary schools have reopened in Hungary, amidst soaring COVID-19 infections across Europe, education trade unions are mobilising to defend teachers’ right to priority access to vaccination.

Teachers and other education personnel count among the workers most exposed to the virus and their vaccination is central to the reopening of schools. In Hungary, the government has not taken the necessary steps to include teachers in the country’s priority vaccination plan, despite the commitment the health authorities had made back in December 2020. Instead, the Hungarian government surprisingly announced that vaccination centres will be widely set up in schools, thus ignoring the UNICEF statement from 4 December 2020 which calls for teachers to be prioritised for vaccination against COVID-19, after healthcare workers and those most at risk.

Consequently, ETUCE Hungarian member organisation SEH-PSZ released on 4 January 2021 a statement calling on the government to include education professionals in the third priority group as well as for vaccination centres not to be placed in school premises.

This demand is shared by teachers and other education personnel across Europe as numerous vaccination plans fail to include them. In Lithuania, teachers are not included as a priority group despite calls from ETUCE member organisation LESTU. Similar demands are being voiced in Belgium and France. In the UK, following a petition, the Parliament should examine the issue of prioritising teachers. In Germany and Poland, though teachers are included in priority groups, the plans lack operational clarity as respectively denounced by ETUCE member organisations GEW and ZNP.

Looking ahead, and as Europe undergoes a new wave of COVID-19 infections, ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken states: “ETUCE continues to support its member organisations, many of whom are likely to face similar struggles in ensuring the health and safety of their affiliates. ETUCE stands with its member organisations in their demands for healthy and safe working conditions in the education sector and the recovery of this fundamental profession beyond the pandemic. We work together for healthy, safe, and inclusive schools, in line with the ETUCE statement The Road to Recovery from the COVID-19 Crisis.”