BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – More than 580 teenage students and 24 public school teachers remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, the acting minister of education said at a press briefing on Thursday.

Speaking ahead of the partial reopening of schools, Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hjh Romaizah Hj Mohd Salleh said over 99 percent of teachers have taken their COVID vaccine, but eight refused to get jabbed.

She said 11 teachers have cited health reasons for not receiving the vaccine and another five were “not ready” to get inoculated.

The acting minister reminded educators and non-teaching staff that they are required to get COVID vaccination before they can return to schools in January.

Earlier in November, the government announced a vaccine mandate for all teachers, non-teaching school personnel, staff of child care centers and education trainers.

Acting education minister Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hjh Romaizah. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hjh Romaizah said, “For teachers who are not vaccinated yet, have pity on our [students]. They are already vaccinated in hopes of returning to schools”.

Education institutions will welcome back Year 10-13 students who will be the first group to restart in-person learning on January 3 after a five-month school closure.

Only fully vaccinated teachers and students can resume face-to-face lessons at primary and secondary schools, sixth form centres and higher education institutions.

However, fully jabbed pupils, teachers and non-teaching staff are still required to undergo antigen rapid tests once a week in the first stage of school reopening.

Students who did not complete the two-dose regimen will continue online or home-based learning.

In response to a question on the number of unvaccinated students aged 12-17, the acting minister said 584 pupils have yet to receive their first dose for various reasons.

Lack of parental consent was specified as the top reason that over 200 students could not get a COVID vaccine.

Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hjh Romaizah called on parents to reconsider their decision and allow their children to get vaccinated and return to schools.

Other reasons of non-vaccination included medical exemptions, delaying immunisation until they are 18 while some were unreachable or not in Brunei.

The education ministry had identified 38,201 students who were eligible for the teenage vaccine rollout that began in November.

According to health ministry data, 93.3 percent of the population is double-vaccinated and 19.5 percent has received three doses.