Government considers mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers as early learning centres prepare to reopen

Early childhood centres are set to reopen on Wednesday but managers are warning they'll be the next frontline for outbreaks.

Some are pushing for a vaccine mandate for teachers and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is something the Government is considering.

Instead of children's laughter, silence fills the Small Kauri Early Childhood Education Centre in Auckland, broken only by owner Linda Petrenko using her bespoke contraption to read to her kids remotely.

She's very uncomfortable with being forced to open with Delta in the community.

"If it gets into the centre, I would say everybody's going to get it," she told Newshub. 

Respiratory virus RSV ripped through her centre this year, infecting almost all teachers and children - some were even hospitalised - and Petrenko says the same will happen with COVID-19. 

"I don't think it's worth risking the health of the children here," she said. "Children are needing to be out of the home so that parents can work. It's a really hard choice, but for me children's health has to come first."

The Prime Minister is insistent she's not prioritising childcare over children's safety.

"No, and we would never make a decision based on a judgement that doesn't have a public health overlay," she said at her Monday press conference. 

When Auckland early learning centres reopen on Wednesday, children must be kept in bubbles of 10, parents must wear masks and teachers have to get tested regularly.

Dr Mike Bedford, head of ECE Reform, says early childhood centres could become the epicentres of outbreaks.

"The bubble of 10 is simply something the Ministry of Education made up, but there's no science behind that," he told Newshub. 

"To simply be forcing teachers to go into situations where they're unsafe, I don't think that's acceptable."

Children can't be vaccinated and teachers can't be forced to be. The Government is considering whether to change that.

"You can expect us to say more around what we can expect for education over the coming week," Ardern said. 

That means rules for schools like masks and testing. But the real biggie is that the Government is considering mandating vaccines for teachers.

This will be a major step in the Government's more punitive approach for vaccinations.