Vaccines against Covid are an “experiment” with unknown consequences, according to the director of the Polish school

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A Polish school principal has drawn widespread criticism, including from ministers of health and education, for describing the coronavirus vaccines as an “experiment” with unknown consequences.

Barbara Nowak, a person appointed by the government, is the official head of schools in Małopolska, a province of 3.4 million people in southern Poland with its capital in Krakow. His outspoken conservative views on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights have made him a controversial figure.

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Speaking to Radio Zet this morning, Nowak said she was strongly against making coronavirus vaccines mandatory for teachers, as proposed by Health Minister Adam Niedzielski the month last.

“I absolutely do not agree with the idea of ​​forcing anyone to do anything,” she said. “People should be free to choose for themselves… especially if we are talking about vaccines…[because] as everyone knows, the consequences of this experience are not fully established.

During the interview, Nowak also declined to confirm whether she herself had been vaccinated against COVID-19, saying this had nothing to do with her views on compulsory vaccination.

His words were quickly condemned by Niedzielski. The health minister noted that “there will always be ‘enlightened’ people who will think that with their weak authority, it can challenge the world of science.” But “such people should not be responsible for education.”

“Vaccines are not an experiment,” he said, but are based “on reliable research and observations”. The Minister of Health called on Nowak to “face the consequences of his remarks”, without however specifying what he meant by that.

Shortly afterwards, Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek joined his government colleague in criticizing Nowak’s comments, which he described as “harmful”.

Czarnek himself has opposed compulsory vaccinations for teachers, arguing that, with around 19-20% of teachers currently unvaccinated, excluding them would “cripple” schools. But he said today that he “strongly disagrees” with Nowak’s views and “encourages everyone to vaccinate”.

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After the backlash, Nowak sought to reconsider his comments. “I admit that, having a historical and non-medical training, I should not have commented on the issue of vaccines,” she wrote on Twitter.

Nonetheless, a number of politicians have called for Nowak to step down or be fired. Among them were Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz – leader of the opposition Polish People’s Party (PSL) and doctor – but also Beata Mazurek, former spokesperson for the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and now MEP.

Sławomir Broniarz, head of the main teachers’ union, also asked: “Czarnek, when are you going to fire Superintendent Nowak?

However, Michał Szczerbiak, a member of the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, said the PiS would not be “brave enough” to remove Nowak because it “fears the anti-vaccine electorate” of which it has become “the” hostage ”.

Around 56% of the Polish population is currently fully vaccinated, a proportion that has increased little since reaching 50% in early September. It is also well below the 70% figure across the European Union.

Although the government has encouraged people to get vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rates are usually found in more rural and conservative areas, traditionally supportive of the ruling PiS party. In contrast, more liberal urban areas, strongholds of the opposition, show the highest rates.

In December, Niedzielski proposed to make vaccines mandatory for medical staff, teachers and service members in uniform. Later that month, he issued a regulation requiring all doctors to be vaccinated by March 1. But no such ordinance has yet been issued for other professions.

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