This section describes the third of four layers provided in PCE's Vaccine Policy Alternatives in Schools page.
Contrafection measures tend to be expensive and are largely being done by the public health authority. The classic measure is free public vaccinations, in which Alberta is a world leader, as mentioned above.
Attempt to increase the vaccination rate: This carries a heavy cost. Increasing vaccinations for faculty and staff chases diminishing returns. As noted above, Alberta already has close to full double vaccinations.
- That being said, a number of staff – and parents – are likely to respond very negatively to any vaccine mandate. In part, this is because people hate the government telling them what to do – and those people are not who you might think. As mentioned above, they have reason for their skepticism, and a board needs to accept that opposition is neither ignorant nor pig-headed, but principled. Any attempt at a vaccine mandate carries a high social cost.
- Some boards plan to place unvaccinated staff on a mandatory “leave of absence” without pay. It is a sort of excommunication from the profession, and hard to distinguish from firing. This measure, confusingly, has the ATA’s blessing, with a promise that it will fail to represent any members disciplined in this fashion. It is a startlingly bad move. Economically speaking, hiring and training new staff is costly. Even the biggest employer in the province – Alberta Health Services – can’t pull it off easily.
- The social costs of such a move are even higher. It takes time for new people to get up to the same level of service – these aren’t just names on a duty roster, even though it may seem so to a board divorced from the classroom. Dismissing staff also changes the climate in the school, and permanently alters the relationship between administration and staff. Even if staff are too intimidated to speak up, an administration that does this will be hated by some of the survivors.
- Finally, such terminations may expose a board to risk of lawsuits for unfair dismissal – expensive even if won. Forcing vaccinations may also expose a board to lawsuits from any staff member who has a negative reaction to a vaccine. This measure is therefore quite expensive.
Insist that students be vaccinated, and isolate students who are not vaccinated: This is a worse move than mandatory vaccination for staff.
- Dissatisfied parents will “vote with their feet,” creating financial costs. They will move their children to other districts or opt for home education – as noted above. These movements are already picking up speed. While the current funding model will prevent a board from feeling the full economic effects of the decision in the short term, it does real long-term harm.
- The social cost is almost as bad. Parents have a right to the services of a public board, and may lack the resources to be able to go elsewhere. Coercion creates angry parents, and an adversarial relationship between a board and part of the community it serves is very bad for business.
- This also creates a legal risk in the form of the human rights concerns raised.
Making masking mandatory: Many, if not most, boards have attempted this already. While it appears inexpensive, there are hidden costs. Simply put, it is difficult to get students to use masks properly, if at all. They may not wear masks outside of close supervision, and there is a slight risk of respiratory infection other than Covid from reuse of masks, which results in a risk from increased medical issues.
- As masks are a very visible symbol of Covid mandates, mask mandates prompt a reaction from some families similar to vaccination mandates, which creates a social cost. In addition, masks may impair social development, and there is no convincing evidence that masking kids prevents the spread of disease.
- Improve classroom ventilation and air quality: This is a one-time economic cost. Improved ventilation and air purification is believed to correlate with reduced transmission, and some boards have moved in this direction.