Labour Defends Its Proposal To Vaccinate Teachers At Half-Term – Ahead Of Other Vulnerable Groups
Labour has said it should be possible to vaccinate all teachers and school staff at the February half-term without jeopardising other vulnerable groups in the queue because they believe there will be enough jabs to go round.
The suggestion would see school staff invited for a vaccine in the half-term holiday on the proviso people in the first four priority groups had been given the offer of a vaccine first. Labour would then want other key workers like the police to be placed into the programme.
Despite proposing that almost one million extra people in the school workforce be addded into the vaccine priority list at February half-term, and ultimately up to six million key workers, Labour insists no-one in the other vaccine prioirty groups would see their jab delayed.
The claim was made by Starmer's team to journalists this afternoon after they were asked why the party thought it was more important to vaccinate a healthy 25-year-old teacher as opposed to a 50-year-old, currently in group nine, and awaiting their vaccine.
"We've said to the government that you can expand capacity [of vaccines] to four million a week by February, and that's entirely possible based on what the government and industry have said in the past," said a spokesperson for Starmer.
"We've also seen a 24-hour programme using pharmacists,[there's] a range of resource available to government. If you do that we believe you can distribute the vaccine to teachers in half term at the same time.
"If we continue to increase capacity at the rate we believe we can, you can begin to look at the priority list."
NHS Sir Simon Stevens said there should be a legitimate discussion around the issue about a vaccine for teachers and police.
Boris Johnson has said teachers who come under groups one to nine in the priority list devised by the Joint Council on Vaccines and Immunisations and Starmer would have to explain which vaccines would have to be taken from other "vulnerable groups".
He said Starmer should be focussing on spreading a message that schools are safe in a bid to get children back into classrooms when they are reopened.
The Labour leader said with half term just a few weeks away, there is a "fantastic opportunity" to use the holiday to vaccinate school staff.
The government hopes to have vaccinated groups one to four, which includes care home residents, doctors and the over 70s, by mid-February. This is around 15 million people.
After this has happened, it will turn its attention to group five, which is the age range 65 to 69 (2.9m people), then group six which is at risk under 65s (7.3m), group seven is the 60 to 64 age group, group eight is 55 to 59 and group nine is 50 to 54-year-olds.
They are set to be vaccinated between February and April.
Thirty-two million people are in groups one to nine, and once they have been vaccinated, the government believes it will have targeted between 90 and 99 percent of those most at risk of dying from coronavirus.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour MP and shadow secretary of state for health and social care, said: “The NHS rightly deserve congratulations for their impressive and speedy roll out of vaccinations. But now we need to go further and faster.
"Not only will vaccination acceleration save lives it will help us to carefully and responsibly reopen our economy and crucially ensure children are back in school as transmission reduces.”
“Ministers must bring forward plans to vaccinate key workers as soon as possible. Police officers, teachers, fire fighters and transport workers are just some of the key workers who have kept society functioning through this pandemic and are more exposed to the virus. We cannot afford to slow our vaccination efforts now.”
The government has said repeatedly that it should meet its target for groups one to four being vaccinated by mid-February. However they have also said the supply can be a 'rate limiting factor'.