Voice Community, the education and early years section of Community, has described as “deeply disappointing” the news that the UK nations will follow the recommendation of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) that occupation should not be considered as a factor when deciding the next stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and so education and early years staff will not be prioritised for vaccination.
Community, representing thousands of essential workers, challenges this recommendation and urges government to protect essential workers through priority access to the vaccine.
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said:
“We are disappointed by the recommendations from the JCVI that workers from certain occupations should not be given priority for the Coronavirus vaccine. We have, as a society, already recognised the need for some workers in high-risk environments, such as care homes and hospitals, to be given vaccine priority.
“We firmly believe that all those who do essential work, who are unable to work from home and where social distancing is impossible, should be given priority access to the vaccine. Community will continue to fight for our members who are in workplaces and are at additional risk. We urge the government to heed our calls and protect this vital workforce.”
Assistant General Secretary (Voice section) Deborah Lawson said:
“This is a deeply disappointing decision. Education is supposedly the Government’s top priority, and early years and education staff have continued to work throughout the pandemic. They deserve better.
“Education and early years staff, along with other key workers, frequently cannot practise social distancing at work and have to come into close or actual contact with children or other adults, and therefore are obviously at more risk than those in occupations that can work from home, regardless of age.
“The JVCI stated that ‘certain occupations have a higher risk of exposure, and these are more likely to be occupations involving frequent contact with multiple other people in enclosed settings’.
“Ministers promote the view that evidence shows that children do not tend to suffer severe symptoms of coronavirus themselves, but it is clear that they can spread the disease to their families, and to staff who support them.
“Schools, colleges and nurseries have suffered severe staff shortages because of infections and the need to self-isolate when cases in a bubble are identified.
“The thousands of staff in their 20s and 30s could potentially be the last group to be vaccinated.
“Voice Community believes that to protect these groups, all early years and education staff must be brought forward for the vaccine as part of phase 2 of vaccinations, once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, ahead of their wider age groups.
“Voice Community will continue to argue the case for these key frontline workers and make representation to ministers on their behalf.
“If we want to get transmission rates down, and nurseries and schools to return to some form of normality as soon as possible, we must vaccinate those working on the frontline.”