No change to vaccine priority for teachers despite union opposition

Norma Foley said the decision was driven by science and was 'not a value judgement on any profession'
No change to vaccine priority for teachers despite union opposition

The move to change the vaccine priority list for teachers and other frontline workers is driven by science and is “not a value judgement on any profession”, Minister for Education Norma Foley has said.

Speaking at the annual congress of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Ms Foley did not give any indication that teachers will be re-prioritised for vaccination.

Instead, she said the move to an age-based system for vaccinating the population instead of one that prioritises frontline workers was driven by latest available medical evidence.

The Irish Times reports that Ms Foley said latest national and international research shows that 60-65 year olds are 70 times more likely to die as a result of Covid-19 than those aged 30-35.

“This is the latest medical and scientific evidence,” she said. “This is not a value judgement on any given profession. This is simply the science.”

Union opposition

All three teachers’ unions have agreed to a joint motion backing measures up to industrial action if the Government does not prioritise their members for vaccination.

In a joint statement on Tuesday morning, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) confirmed that the emergency motion would be placed before their conferences on Wednesday.

“The motion will seek to commit the unions to work together to demand vaccine prioritisation for teachers. Should that fail, the motion will mandate the unions to explore any and all options, up to and including industrial action,” the three unions said in a joint statement.

Any industrial action will not affect the planned reopening of schools on April 12th, according to the unions. However, it could disrupt the current academic year at primary level or the new school year in September at second level.

The row follows the Government’s decision last week to introduce an age-based system for vaccinating the population instead of one that prioritises frontline professions.

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