Government to look at whether to prioritise vaccinating teachers

Coronavirus vaccines for teachers could be fast-tracked, Nicola Sturgeon has said, although she stressed it would be unethical not to prioritise those most at risk of dying from Covid-19.

Scotland’s First Minister said the government would look at how to “accelerate” the vaccination of teachers and school staff as part of efforts to safely reopen schools.

But over-50s and those with pre-existing conditions should be prioritised, Ms Sturgeon insisted.

Schools will remain closed for the majority of pupils until at least the start of February, with in-person teaching replaced by online learning.

Coronavirus – Mon Jan 4, 2021
Coronavirus – Mon Jan 4, 2021

Children who are most vulnerable and whose parents are classed as key workers will still be able to attend schools.

Ms Sturgeon said she wants school staff “vaccinated as quickly as possible”, but not at the expense of those deemed clinically most at risk from the virus.

Announcing a new lockdown to the Scottish Parliament, she said: “We are considering whether and to what extent – consistent with our overall duty to vaccinate the most vulnerable first in line with JCVI recommendations – we can achieve vaccination of school and childcare staff as a priority”.

Asked by Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie about the potential for teachers to be vaccinated before the Scottish Government reviews its school closure policy, she added: “(Vaccinating) teachers and school staff would allow us to give that greater assurance to teachers in the determination to get schools open.

“But we have very clear expert clinical advice about the need to prioritise those who are clinically most at risk of getting ill and dying from this virus and ethically we have a duty to make sure that we use the supplies we have to do that first.

“Many teachers will be in these groups – teachers over 50 or teachers under 50 who have other health conditions – but beyond that, we want to get teachers and school staff generally vaccinated as quickly as possible, but we must make sure we are following the advice about those clinically most in need.

“We will be discussing internally in government with our advisers and with teaching unions and local authorities how we can accelerate that whole process because we understand the central importance of that.”

Following the statement, Mr Harvie said: “I welcome the fact that the First Minister appears to acknowledge that more needs to be done to accelerate vaccination for teachers and other school staff.

“We must see meaningful progress on this before the review date of January 18.”

Jane Peckham, from the NASUWT teaching union in Scotland, said: “We welcome the First Minister’s commitment to look at prioritising school staff for vaccination.

“The NASUWT believes that vaccination of teachers and other staff must be introduced as a central pillar of ensuring the safe operation of schools during the pandemic.

“Prioritising the vaccination of school staff will support the shared aim of restoring in-person teaching for pupils as soon as this can safely be achieved.”