All Burnaby School District staff and families received a letter on Wednesday stating there will be no requirement for staff to get their COVID vaccinations. (Shutterstock)

No vaccine mandate coming for Burnaby Schools staff

The Burnaby school board decided not to impose a COVID vaccine mandate at the district, citing consultations with Fraser Health.

By Dustin Godfrey | November 10, 2021 |1:19 pm

Note: This article has been updated with comments from the Burnaby Teachers’ Association.

The Burnaby School District will not be imposing a COVID vaccine mandate on its staff.

“After careful consideration of information provided by public health and discussions with partner groups, the Burnaby board of education has decided not to require COVID-19 vaccination for staff,” reads an announcement from the district published on Wednesday.

“As we have in the past, we relied on guidance from our local health authority. We considered information shared by Fraser Health with us last month where they assured us that the high level of vaccination in Burnaby means schools can operate safely without a mandate.”

A Fraser Health medical health officer gave the district eight points to consider, including that vaccines are the most effective way to curb both individual cases of COVID as well as the spread of the virus.

Fraser Health also noted that the value of a vaccine mandate “may be limited where community vaccine coverage is already high, and schools are following COVID-19 safety plans.”

In Burnaby, 90% of residents aged 12 and older have had both of their vaccinations, with 93% having their first dose.

“While higher community vaccine coverage will result in lower risk in schools, schools may safely operate with lower than 100% vaccine coverage,” reads a slide deck published to the Burnaby Schools website.

“Vaccine mandates are currently being required in settings with high risk of transmission/severe outcomes—schools are low risk, and have low risk attendees.”

However, the possibility of COVID spreading in schools has been a major point of contention in BC.

Earlier in the school year, after insisting masks would not be required for younger students and receiving significant pushback, the province ultimately imposed a mask mandate on students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

In an email statement to Burnaby Beacon, Burnaby Teachers’ Association president Daniel Tétrault said the union was supportive of a provincial vaccine mandate for school staff.

“But [we] believed it was the wrong approach to leave it up to each district to decide on its own. We will continue to encourage all teachers and members of the community to get vaccinated. This is particularly important given the fact that our elementary students under 12 are still unavailable to get the vaccine,” Tétrault said.

In a letter to staff and families, the school board said all trustees have gotten the vaccine for themselves.

“While we strongly encourage all those eligible who have not yet been vaccinated to do so, the Burnaby board of education has decided not to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for staff in our district,” reads the letter.

“This decision was made after careful consideration of information provided by public health, discussions with partner groups, and reviewing the K-12 sector guidelines for vaccination policies provided by the Ministry of Education, BC Public School Employers’ Association and the provincial advisory group.”

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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