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Education should be vaccine priority, unions tell Hancock


UCU among signatories of letter to ministers calling for urgent jab for universities and schools

The University and College Union is among 13 organisations to sign a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, urging him to prioritise Covid-19 vaccination for education staff.

The letter, dated 12 January, calls on ministers to “urgently consider” raising the priority level for all staff in education settings, from early years to universities and other adult education providers.

“Fully reopening education settings is a national priority—the moment it is safe to do so,” the letter states. “Vaccination prioritisation, combined with mass testing, would reduce transmissions, remove any further disruption to the education of young people, and support the resumption of economic activity.”

The letter has also been sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson, and health minister Nadhim Zahawi, who has responsibility for Covid vaccine deployment.

As well as the UCU, it is signed by the heads of the Association of School and College Leaders, the National Education Union and the Association of Colleges, among others.

“All our organisations agree that this proposal is the right course of action for students, education staff and the wider communities in which they study and work to reduce transmission of the virus and maximise the quality of the education that students receive,” the letter adds.

“We invite you to work with us on this issue and will offer all appropriate support to you in delivery of the vaccination programme to all education staff.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are following the advice from independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on which groups of people to prioritise for Covid-19 vaccines. They advised that immediate priority should be to prevent deaths and protect health and care staff, with old age deemed the single biggest factor determining mortality.

“The JCVI have considered evidence on the risk of exposure and the risk of mortality by occupation. Under the priority groups advised, staff working in education over 50 years of age, or in a medical risk group, would be eligible for vaccination.

“The JCVI will consider all available evidence for Phase 2 recommendations of the vaccination programme.”

The Department for Education will be involved in the JCVI process.