Teachers could be prioritised for vaccine, Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation member suggests

Teachers could be prioritised in the vaccine roll out, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has suggested. 

The committee is currently drawing up the priority list for phase two of the roll-out, according to Prof Adam Finn, an expert in paediatrics at Bristol University.

He said the committee has been asked to come up with a plan by the middle of February to determine the priority order of who should be vaccinated out of the under-50s.

Prof Finn said that while he could not predict what will be prioritised, the "critical role" teachers play "really will figure in the discussions".

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: "As you can appreciate these considerations start to be social values in a way more than the criteria we normally use, which is pressure on the health service."

Asked about the position of teachers on the priority list, he said: "I can’t predict exactly what will be prioritised but I can say that we will be discussing this and coming up with a plan, and I can also say that when it comes to teachers I think we all appreciate the critical role that they all play and so that really will figure in the discussions."

The JCVI has published the nine priority groups for the first phase of the vaccine rollout. Within the first phase it is aimed that the first four groups – which includes care home residents and carers, front line health and social care workers, everyone over the age of 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable – will be vaccinated by the middle of February.

Ministers have said that the remaining five groups that make up the first phase, which includes everyone over the age of 50 as well as clinically vulnerable adults, can expect to be vaccinated by Spring.

But the exact order of groups to prioritise during the second phase of the vaccine rollout, which will involve all adults under the age of 50, has not yet been finalised.

Ministers have faced repeated calls from teacher unions, education chiefs and Tory MPs to give teachers priority treatment for the vaccine.

Last week the former Education Secretary Lord Kenneth Baker argued that teachers and dinner ladies should be inoculated as a priority to help make schools a safe environment.

Robert Halfon MP, the Tory chair of the education select committee, has also urged ministers to consider bumping school staff up the priority list.

“Surely teachers and support staff must be made a priority alongside NHS workers for vaccination,” he has said.  

“The Government wants to prioritise the elderly and the vulnerable and I’m absolutely in sympathy with that. I think there is an argument about supporting one group of workers over another, but my view is that children – educating our children – is the most important thing we can do.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said delivering on the vaccine programme targets was the best way of reopening schools.

But he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that opening classrooms again did not need to be contingent on vaccinating teachers. Asked whether reopening was contingent on inoculating teachers, he said: "No, I don’t know that it necessarily is, although if that can happen that would be a good thing.

"This argument that there are sectors where there is a very strong case for vaccination for obvious reasons, and I understand that and we are going to have to accommodate that, quite frankly.

"But at the moment, we do need to focus on those who are most likely to go into hospital and tragically to die."

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