MPs are calling for teachers to be added to the priority list for Covid-19 vaccinations.
Speaking in Parliament, Catholic MP and former Education Secretary Damian Hinds called for vaccination prioritisation for key workers including teachers, once the highest-risk groups are covered. In his question to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mr Hinds said this should be the case because of the special role of teachers in society and because education is a priority.
“Of course the invisible shield goes first around the most vulnerable and the JCVI that determines that sequence but once the highest-risk groups have been vaccinated can I encourage my right hon. friend with the JCVI in looking again at prioritising key workers, including teachers and because of the special role teachers play in our society and because we prioritise education?” Mr Hinds said.
In response, Mr Johnson said: “I fully understand the point my right hon. friend makes and I’m sure that it will be borne in mind by the JCVI as they continue to make their judgements.”
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, a Christian, also raised the issue as he praised the “immense service” of people working in schools and made the case for them to be added on to the priority list for vaccinations.
He was speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on a national petition which called on the Government to prioritise teachers, school and childcare staff for Covid-19 vaccination. The petition has received over 460,000 signatures.
Speaking during the debate, Mr Farron said: “People talk about the reopening of schools, but they are open: far more children are being taught in our schools and in school settings today than during the April-May phase of the earliest lockdown, for lots of very good reasons.
“One reason why schools have been otherwise closed as part of the lockdown is that we recognise that the science shows that although children do not get badly affected by the disease, they clearly spread it.
“We are asking teachers, teaching assistants and other school staff to put themselves in harm’s way for good reason, so it is right that they be considered as part of the priority vaccination list alongside others.
“No-one wants to muscle their way to the front of the queue, but we recognise that these are people who are doing an immense service for our children and our country, and who are putting themselves at risk at the same time.”
In response, the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi said: “Schools, as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale reminded us, are open.
“Primary and secondary schools are open, delivering both online education and education in school for the most vulnerable children and the children of NHS and social care workers, who look after the people who are most vulnerable and whom we are trying to protect from dying.
“I understand the sentiment behind the petition and pay tribute to the vital work that teachers in schools and childcare workers do to see us through this difficult time.
“However, I believe that our strategy of putting the most vulnerable first is the right one, morally, ethically and practically, but I recognise that even with such brilliant work in full swing the next few weeks will be difficult, especially in education settings.”
Picture: Pupils are seen working in school as a teacher wears a protective face mask.