Vaccinate teachers at half term so our children can get back to school, Labour says
Labour tonight stepped up calls for teachers to be vaccinated next week as pupils get ready to return to class.
Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green urged ministers to jab teachers during February half term so they are inoculated before face-to-face lessons restart, due from March 8.
The call to rush teachers to the front of the queue received a boost from across the Atlantic.
US President Joe Biden believes America’s teachers should be prioritised for injections, the White House said today.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told MSNBC: “He believes that teachers should be a priority on the vaccination list, he has supported that.
“He believes that teachers should get their vaccines, but he’s listening to the science and there are a number of important steps that we need to take to ensure that schools can open and open safely.
“Vaccines are one piece of it.”
A total of 12,646,486 people in the UK have received a first vaccine dose – up 352,480 on the previous day, figures showed last night(TUES).
Inoculating all England’s teachers against coronavirus could take less than two days if they were prioritised and no-one else was jabbed.
Latest statistics show there are 453,813 teachers in England – and with vaccination rates running at more than 2.5 million a week, they could all be protected very quickly.
Supporters of injecting teachers believe the move would give them the confidence to return to face-to-face lessons – boosting kids’ learning.
Ms Green told the Mirror, which is campaigning to Give Teachers a Jab: “Children have faced a year of chaos and disruption to their education.
“The Government must focus on getting children back into school and preventing further disruption, that means vaccinating teachers and school staff during half term.
“This should come alongside effective mass testing and Nightingale classrooms, to ensure pupils can remain in school learning and socialising with their friends.”
NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “Vaccinating all teachers and education staff will help to ensure they are safe at work and that schools can open safely to give children the education they need.
“The current rate of vaccinations means that it would take just a few days to give the first jab to the entire schools’ workforce.
“However, where schools are already open, or are to be the first to reopen fully, there is a strong case that these education staff should be amongst the first to be offered the vaccine.
“Our Vaccinate2Educate campaign has secured backing across the length and breadth of the country – it is making a difference.
“It is time for ministers to commit to a firm date for rolling out the vaccine for education staff.”
The Government plans to have vaccinated the top four categories of the nine-group priority list by Monday(FEB 15).
The following five groups are due to be inoculated by May.
Government advisers will set out who they think should be next in line for Covid-19 jabs in the coming weeks.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will draw up its recommendations and plans will be revealed by the end of February or early March, said JCVI member Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol’s School of Clinical Sciences.
It will be up to the Government whether it accepts them or bows to pressure to overrule advisers and make a political decision to push people in certain roles to the front of the queue.
Police chiefs have called for frontline officers to be considered a priority, and supermarket workers have also made a case for them to be first in the next wave of jabs.
The NAHT union said once the first nine vaccination categories were complete, teachers should receive priority for the second wave.
Director of policy James Bowen said: “With the vaccination programme progressing rapidly and the most vulnerable looking set to be protected very soon, we are hopeful that school staff will then be prioritised in the near future.
“This would not just help protect those staff, it would also mean a more sustainable return to school once lockdown measures are lifted, with less disruption to children’s education caused by absence and illness.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last month(JAN) fuelled hopes teachers could be prioritised in the next list.
He told the BBC: “It’s absolutely right we are vaccinating those most likely to be hospitalised, those most likely and most at risk of dying as a result of coronavirus.
“But it will be no surprise to you whatsoever I want to see all teachers all support staff vaccinated at the very earliest moment.
“It is absolutely right we are prioritising those most at risk of dying of the virus, I would certainly be hoping teachers and those who work in schools will very much be up that list when the people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus have been vaccinated and looked after.”
Nearly one in four primary school children in England was in class last week, Government figures showed last night(TUES).
Overall 16% of state school pupils were in class on February 4, up from 15% the week before, according to data from the Department for Education.
Some 23% of primary school pupils were on-site – up from 22% the previous week.
Five per cent of secondary school students were in class, the same as on January 28.
Children in schools and colleges in England – except kids of key workers and vulnerable pupils – have been told to learn remotely during the latest lockdown.
Approximately 895,000 children of key workers were in attendance last week, up from 850,000 on January 28.
Boris Johnson has said he hopes it will be safe to begin the reopening of England’s schools from March 8.
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