Category Archives: Society

Vaccines are fantastic but should Covid-19 vaccines be mandatory?

Vaccines, antibiotics, X-rays, radiotherapy, organ transplants… There have been so many amazing discoveries and inventions in the world of medicine. Vaccines would have to be near (or perhaps at) the top of the list of the greatest inventions ever.
We don’t think, however, that teachers should lose their jobs if they aren’t vaccinated with a Covid-19 vaccine. Covid-19 vaccines are new and are still undergoing clinical trials. No long-term studies have been done on their safety (since they are new) and adverse reactions to the vaccines have been widely reported. Would anyone criticize a person who doesn’t want the AstraZeneca vaccine? Do people who refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine get labelled as anti-vaxxers? We all know that the risk of an adverse reaction from the AZ vaccine is fairly high, and that’s the reason people prefer the Pfizer shot. However is it fair to criticize people who also don’t want the Pfizer shot? We don’t think it is.
The vaccines also don’t significantly reduce the spread of coronavirus (hence the reason that travellers returning from interstate, from NSW to Victoria, don’t just need to show proof of vaccination but also have to produce a negative test and quarantine in their homes). Therefore, forcing teachers to take them is unconscionable.
To stop the spread of coronavirus, we need to increase the availability of Rapid Antigen Tests. If you test negative, you can go to work knowing that you can’t give it to anyone. If you test positive, you need to go into quarantine because you will likely spread it to others if you are in the community (and this applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people).

Below is the email I have sent to the Victorian Premier (daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au), to the Ministers of Health and Education (Martin Foley, minister.health@dhhs.vic.gov.au and James Merlino, james.merlino@parliament.vic.gov.au), and to my local member for Clarinda (Meng Heang Tak, MengHeang.Tak@parliament.vic.gov.au).
Feel free to use this as a template to contact the Premier, the ministers, and your local member if you also believe that vaccines should not be mandatory.

Dear Premier,

I am calling for an urgent review of the decision to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for teachers.

Firstly, given the newness of the vaccines, any harmful long-term effects of the vaccines are not known and a lot of people are understandably hesitant to receive them. This is especially true of younger female teachers but not exclusively so. Making them mandatory may drive a lot of great teachers to leave the profession they love.

Secondly, the research suggests that while vaccinated people are less likely to require hospitalizations, transmission of the virus is still significant among people who have been infected regardless of vaccination status. If a fully vaccinated teacher (or any teacher) becomes infected, he or she will still have to isolate and that will still cause operational disruptions to classes. Since many teachers have already been vaccinated, why make vaccination mandatory for the small number of teachers who haven’t received a vaccination if the delta variant’s high level of transmission won’t reduce school disruption to any significant extent. Additionally, since the vast majority of teachers are under 60, and very few people under sixty are hospitalized anyway, mandating the vaccines will not reduce hospitalizations.

Thirdly, the timing may also present problems. If teachers leave the profession in the middle of Term 4, it may severely affect the way schools operate.

Fourthly, kindergartens have remained open throughout the pandemic with very few restrictions on the number of children who can attend and, yet, transmission in these open, well-ventilated centres has been non-existent. Again, given the high number of workers in early childhood centres that have voluntarily received the vaccine despite the fact that transmissions are not occurring in these settings, mandating Covid vaccinations will not provide any benefit to kindergarten communities.

Given that a large percentage of teachers have voluntarily been vaccinated, forcing the rest to be vaccinated with the threat of dismissal seems unnecessary and perhaps heavy handed.

In summary:

  • the vaccines’ long-term effects are not known (which is very concerning for a lot of teachers);
  • hospitalizations will not be reduced (in the relatively young teacher demographic); and
  • there will still be significant disruptions to classes when staff and students are infected (since the vaccines do not stop infection and transmission).

I am all for vaccines but the Covid-19 vaccinations have only been given provisional approval (due to the lack of long-term safety data) and they should not be made mandatory! I ask you therefore to review this decision.

Kind Regards,
Spiro Liacos


Here is another email I sent.
Email sent to the Premier, the CHO, and to the Ministers of Health and of Education.
Subject: We need our jobs and our students need us.
Dear Premier,
I hope you are well.
My name is XXXXXXX. I am a teacher at XXXXXXX.
I am writing to you about the PHO requiring teachers to be vaccinated. I am no lawyer (I’m a Science teacher), but (and I’m sure you know) that a Fair Work Commissioner recently argued that because the coronavirus vaccines are still in clinical trials, no-one should be coerced into receiving them (as per the Nuremburg Code).
Many teachers at my school do not want to lose their jobs (that they love) if they don’t receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Many of the teachers I have spoken to would rather wait until we know more about how effective they are and more about the risk vs reward profile that they offer (the risk of adverse reactions vs the reward of milder coronavirus symptoms). Many are young and they know that very few younger people get seriously ill if they contract coronavirus.
We do not therefore believe that it is too much to rethink the vaccine mandate. Summer is coming up, we can have windows and doors open, we will have air purifiers, and we can have rapid antigen tests. It would be a huge shame if teachers lose their jobs when they don’t even have coronavirus.
Please don’t force us to take these vaccines while they are still undergoing clinical trials to test for long-term safety and efficacy.
Kind Regards,
Name
Address
Teacher,
School


And here’s another.
Email sent to Victoria’s CHO, the premier and the Health and Education ministers.
Dear Minister,
My name is XXXXXXX. I am a teacher at XXXXXXXXXXXX.
The Public Health Order requiring teachers to be vaccinated will not significantly reduce the transmission of coronavirus in schools. I am therefore asking that the PHO be reviewed since there are alternatives available to us.
As you know, Covid vaccinations do not stop Covid. They reduce the symptoms of the virus, but a fully vaccinated person can still contract and transmit Covid. This is the reason that you require fully vaccinated Victorians returning from NSW to receive a negative PCR test and to quarantine for 14 days.
Therefore any teacher, vaccinated or not, can still transmit the virus to colleagues and students or be infected by colleagues and students. Anyone with symptoms will obviously have to quarantine and not return to the workplace until a negative test result is attained.
Would it perhaps be better to require teachers to undergo regular rapid antigen tests? This will ensure that teachers who do not have coronavirus can still teach and that teachers who do have coronavirus can isolate and receive whatever medical care is necessary.
Please don’t force teachers to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. Most teachers have already been vaccinated but we don’t want to lose the fantastic teachers (there are quite a few at my school) who do not wish to be vaccinated at this time.
Kind Regards,
Name
Address
Teacher,
School

Best Greek Pita Recipe – Tiropita – Yummy Cheese Pie with Homemade Filo Pastry.

In the animal kingdom, the vast majority of species are born or hatch (or whatever) with pretty much all of the programming that they need to survive. Lizards, turtles, frogs, insects, and fish, for example, never “meet” their parents but they just know how to find food, how to find a mate (when their reproductive systems mature), and how to escape predators (although most of course are not successful at avoiding predators). Birds are not taught how to build nests. They just know somehow.
Mammals, on the other hand, learn quite a lot from their mums and dads. Young bears, for example, learn to hunt by watching their mums hunt. Primates “teach” quite a lot of stuff to their offspring.
Humans, though, learn vast quantities of things from their mums and dads, and also from their relatives, their teachers, and from video, pictorial, and text resources. But just because we are taught something, doesn’t mean that we are immediately good at it!
My mum’s been making Greek pita for decades and is very good at it. I got her to show me how she does it, and though she is 84, she made it look easy. I then tried to make a pita and though it eventually worked out, I found it difficult to make. However, since my first attempt, I have definitely improved.
So kids (and adults), don’t worry if, when you are taught something by your teacher, you don’t understand it immediately. Practice it and you will get better!!

Best Greek Pita Recipe – Tiropita – Yummy Cheese Pie with Filo Pastry

Spiro’s first Greek Pita, a yummy tiropita with homemade filo pastry.

So many things went wrong, but it was worth the effort. So is all of the education we receive both at school and in life!!

This photo shows my efforts on my sixth pita. It looks a lot like my mum’s does!

Live in Lockdown – Cool World 12/09


This may be the first public live musical performance in Melbourne since lockdowns began in March. It was just me practicing the guitar for half an hour in front of a bunch of randoms at Bald Hill Park in Clarinda, which is across the road from my house!
I’m not much of a guitarist and I’m even less of a singer but I got a few claps, so I was pretty happy.
Victoria has the harshest lockdown measures in the world at the moment. However, as a PE teacher, can I encourage all of you to get out and do your 1 hour of exercise. If you live anywhere near Bald Hill Park, come and do some exercise there!
Cool World was written by Australian rock legend Ross Wilson who performed at the school that I work at last year.
Listen to the original (and the best) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jfvx9DZCQQ&ab_channel=MondoRock.

230,000 people die in Australia every year. So why the fuss over coronavirus? Here’s why.

I’ve heard people question why so many restrictions have been put in place to combat coronavirus (Covid-19) even though it hasn’t killed that many people. This is a major reason why.

Just over 100 people have died in Australia because of coronavirus (Covid-19). Every single case represents a human being and the pain and suffering for the people who contracted the disease and their loved ones is very real.

However, it is also true, as you can see in the table below, that many more people die from other causes. Why aren’t we forcing people to exercise every day to prevent heart disease? Why aren’t we banning sugary drinks to prevent heart disease and diabetes? Why aren’t we banning smoking to prevent lung cancers and other problems? Why aren’t we banning cars, given that our road toll is about 1,200 every year? (The road toll doesn’t even make the top 20, let alone the top ten.)

So why have we upset so many aspects of our lives and of the economy to fight coronavirus? Well, this is my take (below the table).

Cause of death in Australia (in 2018)

Number

Rank

Median Age (years)

Miscarriage
(basically, death of baby inside womb due to natural causes)
approx 100,000

1

pre-birth
Abortion
(basically, the baby, the placenta, and the amniotic fluid are sucked out of the womb with a mini vacuum cleaner in a procedure called vacuum aspiration)
approx 70,000

2

pre-birth
Ischaemic heart diseases
(basically, heart attacks; the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen because the arteries supplying blood become blocked)

17,533

3

84.7

Dementia, including Alzheimer disease
(a loss in awareness and an inability to plan, reason, hold complex thoughts etc.)

13,963

4

89

Cerebrovascular diseases
(basically, strokes: the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen because the arteries become blocked or they burst)

9,972

5

86.2

Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung
(basically, cancer of the respiratory system; abnormal growths of tissue that interfere with normal functioning)

8,586

6

73.6

Chronic lower respiratory diseases
(basically, lung damage; causes include tobacco smoke and other toxins, pollution…)

7,889

7

80.9

Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus
(basically, cancer of the intestines; abnormal growths of tissue that interfere with normal functioning)

5,420

8

77

Diabetes
(basically an inability to regulate blood sugars effectively)

4,656

9

81.4

Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue
(basically, cancer of bone marrow, the blood, lymph, and lymphatic system)

4,612

10

78.2

I believe that it comes down to the fact that no government (state or federal), can be blamed for most causes of death, but if any government did nothing about coronavirus and fatalities were higher in that territory than other territories, then they could be blamed directly. If, for example, Victoria had done nothing about coronavirus while NSW had lock downs, and Victoria’s coronavirus death toll was 500 and NSW’s was only 50, then the extra deaths in Victoria could (and would) be seen as the Victorian government’s fault.

Therefore, generally, no government really wanted to do anything hugely different to any other government because they didn’t want to be blamed. You can’t blame any government for the road death toll because cars have been around for a century. You can’t blame any government for heart disease, because heart disease has been around for, well, who knows how long? As long as seat belt laws and speed limits are put in place and there’s a bit of research funding given to scientists trying to reduce the impact of heart disease and cancer, governments can’t be blamed for most deaths.

(Whether abortion, the number 2 cause of death in Australia every year, fits neatly into my theory above is debatable. Many people do blame governments for allowing this huge loss of life to occur.)

Now I don’t mean to be cynical. I am definitely not saying that governments don’t care about people and that they only care about votes. I genuinely believe that they (individual members of governments) would actually blame themselves if more people had died because of inaction.

Weighing up the the value of the economy vs the value of human lives is something that governments do all the time. But if a government hadn’t done anything about coronavirus and more people had died in one territory compared to other territories, the people in that territory would have blamed that government and most government members themselves would have felt responsible on a deeply personal level.

So, maybe they went too hard on the lock downs and maybe they didn’t. Being in government must be very difficult! A lot of it was educated guess work and it’s probably true that the federal government’s initial decision to stop people coming into Australia from China was the biggest factor that kept us relatively safe from this new virus. So far.

Anyway, I’ve gotta get out and do some heart-disease-destroying, diabetes-diminishing, cancer-reducing exercise. Before the government imposes it on me for my own good.

 

Figures in the table above come from

Abort 73,
the Parliament of Australia website,
and
The Australian Bureau of Statistics. Their figures do not include deaths prior to birth and they break up cancers into different types. If all cancers were counted together, cancer would probably rate as number 3 on the list above.

The Most Important Law that Students Should Be Taught

Good morning, everyone.
Before we begin the lesson, let me tell you about what I call the First Law of Economics.
This is it:
If you want someone to give you something, you have to give them something in return of a perceived equal value.
This Law applies to individuals, to businesses, and to entire countries.
So, if you go to the shop and you want to buy a T-shirt, they will give you a T-shirt, but they expect you to give them something in return: in this case, money. We can call the First Law of Economics the Law of Mutually Beneficial Exchange.
When, in the future, you get a job, what’s really happening is that you are going to give your time and your skills to the person you are working for and that person, in return, will pay you. Many of you will work for a boss, and so the exchange of skills (and time) for payment will be made through the business you work for. Some of you may start a business though, in which case you might be dealing directly with customers. When, for example, your tap is broken, you might call a plumber and the plumber comes and fixes it. In exchange for the plumber’s time and skill, you give the plumber money.
Basically business and individuals provide what are called “goods” (physical things like a chair or a light globe) and “services”. A service is something like the work that an accountant does when he or she prepares your tax return for you. Mechanics offer goods (like motor oil or spark plugs for your engine) and services (the actual work they do to fix or service your car). These goods and services are often referred to as “parts and labour”.
So, if in the future you want to work, it’s not really a matter of just saying you want to find a job (although there’s nothing wrong with that expression). It’s really a matter of mutually beneficial exchange. You will provide your skills or products or time or services to someone else and that someone else will give you payment in return.
Now, a lot of you may never have thought about it this way. Up until now, nearly everything you have has been provided for you. Your parents provide food and clothing and stuff and they don’t really ask for much in return. Love of course complicates things. (As a parent myself, the “payment” I receive from my own kids is the gratitude they express to me and, let’s face it, when they do well, I feel good! As I said, love complicates things.) In the real world of work, however, no-one is just going to give you stuff that you want if you don’t provide something in return that they want.
So, why are you at school? It’s because you need to learn the skills that you need to offer future bosses and future customers—for which you will receive your income.
If any of you have little brothers and sisters in primary school, you will know that there is no way they would be able to do most jobs. Most of them would struggle even to make, say, a coffee at a local café, or to stack shelves at the supermarket, both jobs that don’t require a huge amount of training and which don’t pay that well. However, most of you in this class could easily do these jobs because you’re a whole lot smarter than you were in primary school, and you’re bigger and stronger.
But this leads us to an important point. If the only skills you have are also possessed by millions of other people, then why would someone pay you top dollar when it’s easy for a business to find someone else to do the same work for a lower wage. We now get into the Second Law of Economics: Supply and Demand. Put simply, if it’s easy to find someone to do a particular job because it’s a low-skill job, then the payment will be low as well.
The people who are paid the most are the people who provide skills or services or products that few other people can provide. Lots of people can stack shelves at a supermarket, and though it’s a really important job and an honourable job, it’s a low-paying job.
So what skills do you have to offer now and what skills will you have to offer in the future? I want to encourage you all to work hard, to learn as much as you can at school, and to become as good as you can at reading, writing, and mathematics. In the world of work, no-one really owes you anything. To earn an income in the future, you will have to offer something in return. So make sure you gain the skills you need! And of course you’re all going to need the skills that I’ll be teaching you!!
Anyway, let’s begin the lesson.

Note to Teachers:

I often refer back to the First Law of Economics because of its pervasiveness. It doesn’t just apply to individuals but also to whole countries. For example, Shedding Light on Atoms Episode 3: The Discovery of Atoms describes how elements are extracted from mineral ores (for example, iron from iron ore which contains a high concentration of iron oxide). I often pause the video and talk about how Australia receives income from other countries by selling the iron ore and the steel that we produce to other countries.
I might say something like…
A large part of Australia’s wealth is generated from the fact that Australia as a country has things (in this case iron ore) that other countries want and which they are prepared to pay for. The international monetary system is pretty complicated but, at a really simple level, Australia gives iron ore to China and China gives Australia things that it produces (such as electronic equipment). It’s the First Law of Economics at work.
A country can only import things if it exports things as well.
And an individual person can only acquire something if that individual gives something in return. It’s the First Law of Economics: if you want someone to give you something, you have to give them something in return. And what do you have to give? Maybe not much at this stage because you’re young. But you’ll grow and continue to learn and by the time you finish your education you’ll have much much more to give than you do now!