Treat teachers as high-priority for new Covid vaccines, says Suffolk MP

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge has called for school staff to be a priority for Covid vaccinations. - Credit: Office of James Cartlidge

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge has called for teachers and other school staff to be given higher priority in the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine over the next few months.

Mr Cartlidge raised the issue with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson after he announced changes to the procedure for returning to the classrooms after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Mr Williamson replied that the priority with the vaccine was the most vulnerable people in society along with health service and care workers - then it would be rolled out to others - and that those working in schools were very much seen as key workers.

Speaking later, Mr Cartlidge said he fully accepted that the most vulnerable should be first to get the vaccine, but felt that school staff should be near the top of key workers because by ensuring they were protected it would be much easier to keep schools open if there were outbreaks among students.

He said: "It is the adults at schools who are more at risk from suffering serious symptoms of Covid-19 and this would enable schools to be able to continue operating with more confidence if there is an outbreak."

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At present the government has a series of priorities for the vaccine - starting with the oldest and most vulnerable members of society living in care homes through to everyone aged over 50 and those aged under 50 with underlying health issues.

Mr Cartlidge said he would like to see school staff included in that list above some of the other categories of people who were not mixing so much with other people while working at home.

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He said: "Keeping schools open has to be a priority and that means ensuring that staff have the confidence of having had the vaccine and know that they are safe whatever happens."

The licensing of the Oxford University/Astra Zenica vaccine, of which the government has bought 100m doses, means that work on vaccinating people should be able to speed up rapidly in the new year.

Mr Cartlidge added: "The fact that one dose of this vaccine can offer significant protection and that the second injection can be delayed by up to 12 weeks means we can get on and give more people a significant protection in the first few months so things should be looking better by the spring."

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