By James Ward, PA
Ireland’s largest teaching union has criticised moves to change the vaccination rollout plan once the most vulnerable and people aged over 70 have been inoculated.
Reports on Tuesday suggested that once those most at risk have been vaccinated, the priority list will be abandoned and will instead proceed based on age.
This means that key workers in essential jobs and the education sector who cannot avoid a high risk of exposure to the virus will lose vaccine prioritisation.
...It is essential teachers+all key workers should continue to be prioritised once vulnerable people and the elderly are vaccinated. INTO will be seeking an emergency meeting with the Department to protest strongly against any downgrading of our profession on vaccination list...
— INTO (Irish National Teachers' Organisation) (@INTOnews) March 30, 2021
According to reports, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has advised the Government that moving to an age-based system would be fairer and easier from an administration perspective.
But it means groups such as teachers and Gardai, who have lobbied to moved up the prioritisation list, will now have to wait.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said it was “extremely concerned” by the news.
INTO general secretary John Boyle said: “For months now we have heard the government say, time after time, that education is the top priority for government.
“How then can teachers be treated with such blatant disregard as frontline education workers.
“This move undermines the efforts of our education staff to keep our primary and special schools open safely.
“This is unacceptable and the Government must prioritise the safety of teachers and all key workers once the vulnerable and elderly are first protected by vaccination.”
Sinn Fein education spokesman Donnchadh O Laoghaire has said teachers must not be left behind in the vaccine rollout.
He said: “I am horrified to hear that the Cabinet is considering throwing away the plans for the vaccine rollout, and removing any prioritisation for staff working in education.
“The Government’s approach to vaccine rollout has been chaotic.
“The plans have been chopped and changed and, once again, we are hearing this news today from the media and not directly from a government minister. It really isn’t good enough and is insulting to those affected.
Removal of vaccine priority for school staff a disgrace - @Donnchadhol
“It makes no sense for someone without an underlying condition who is able to work from home to get the vaccine before teachers who go to work every day to support our young people."https://t.co/WZv2BOFsgH pic.twitter.com/Mvg2cShgAG
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) March 30, 2021
“It doesn’t make sense that someone without an underlying condition and who is able to work from home could get the vaccine in advance of teaching staff, who must go to work every day and support our young people.”
He added: “School staff urgently need clarity on when they will receive the vaccine, and the least they deserve is the Department of Education arguing their case for greater priority.
“To remove this priority from those working in our schools is absolutely disgraceful.”
The Department of Health has declined to comment on the story.