Education staff won’t be prioritised for vaccine as government continues with age-based approach

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School and college staff will not be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine over other workers in the next phase of immunisation, the government has confirmed.

But education workers in their forties will be next in line for the jab along with all others in that age group once phase two begins, after ministers confirmed the age-based approach to immunisation would continue.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said last month that teachers have a “very strong case” for priority jabs, and the education secretary Gavin Williamson had said he was lobbying for prioritisation.

However, the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations has said today that a mass vaccination targeting occupational groups would be “more complex” to deliver and “may slow the vaccine programme leaving some more vulnerable people at higher risk unvaccinated for longer”.

They add that an “age-based approach” remains the “most effective way” of reducing death and hospitalisation from Covid-19.

Vaccine
Matthew Hancock

The government has said it aims to offer everyone over 50 a vaccine by April 15, bringing it to the end of the first phase.

In phase two, those aged 40 to 49 will be next, then 30 to 39-year-olds and finally 18 to 29-year-olds. The vaccines are not currently approved for use on children.

School and college leaders say they are “disappointed” that the JCVI have not advised the prioritisation of education staff.

The decision comes just over a week before schools and colleges are due to start reopening to all pupils on March 8.

Williamson said last month he was “fighting tooth and nail” to make teachers a priority for the vaccine.

 

It is crucial that those at higher risk are encouraged to take the vaccine

Geoff Barton, leaders of heads’ union ASCL, said: “The government needs to make a policy decision on this matter having insisted that education is a national priority and having announced a ‘big bang’ return to the classroom in England.

“It must now back that up by providing a clear direction that education staff will be prioritised in the next phase of the programme.

“This is important not only in reassuring staff who it expects to work in busy and crowded environments, but also in terms of minimising disruption to education caused by staff absence as a result of Covid.”

Professor Wei Shen Lim, covid-19 chair for JCVI, said “continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure”.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Delivering a vaccination programme on this scale is incredibly complex and the JCVI’s advice will help us continue protecting individuals from the risk of hospitalisation at pace.

“The age-based approach will ensure more people are protected more quickly. It is crucial that those at higher risk – including men and BAME communities – are encouraged to take the vaccine, and that local health systems are fully engaged and reaching out to underserved communities to ensure they can access the vaccine.”



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3 Comments

  1. Don McSween

    Yet another example of Government failing to acknowledge the vital role FE plays in the education of the nation, and how little it values the staff that already have complex and difficult challenges in the sector already.

    Lecturers in FE often have a higher average age (and therefore risk) than primary or secondary teachers and are expected to work in environments with students from up to fifteen separate households who are amongst highest age group for infections.

    With myself and many of my colleagues in the post fifty category, I do not wish my epitaph to read “if he only had the jab a few weeks earlier”.
    We have worked our very hardest to provide the highest possible outcomes for our learners remotely and this is the sickening response from government.

    • Phil Hatton

      Don if you look at what the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said on Friday night the research fully supports stepping up the next stages by age as the fairest way of prioritising who gets the vaccinations. Teachers, based on the data he quoted for the first time on occupations would be lower down the list going of occupations and how many get Covid per 100,000 than teachers assume. If GP surgeries were to have to invite the priority job holders such as sheet metal workers, taxi drivers and bus drivers the whole programme would slow down as they don’t know patient occupations in the easy way they know ages. We all just need to wait our turn and take the vaccine as quickly as possible when offered. The British are good at taking their turns in a queue and this is no different to be fair. I am no better or deserving than a taxi driver because of my job and that is the message of fairness using age we need to get across to our learners.

  2. This isn’t the Government failing to recognise the role of people working in education or any other front line people facing sector, it’s the JCVI independently looking at the most effective way to prioritise those most at risk in our society by age & health profile, and rightly so.
    The vaccination programme is continually picking up speed with over 50s now being targeted with over 40s close behind.
    This has and continues to be a fantastic effort under extremely difficult conditions and all of us working in F.E. will be offered a vaccination by age & health profile in line with the rest of the population.