Teachers should all be vaccinated during half term to make the return to in-person teaching easier, Keir Starmer has demanded.
The Labour leader challenged the Prime Minister to prioritise educators during heated exchanges during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Starmer told the Commons: “Does he agree with me that once the first four categories of the most vulnerable have been vaccinated by mid-February, he should bring forward the vaccination of key workers and use the window of the February half-term to vaccinate all teachers and all school staff?”
Boris Johnson replied: “Of course, it follows that all teachers in JCVI groups 1 to 9 will be vaccinated as a matter of priority.
“And I pay to tribute, by the way, to the huge efforts parents are making across the country struggling to educate their kids, I know how deeply frustrating it is, the extra burden that we have placed on families by closing the schools.
“And no-one has worked harder than my right honourable friend the Education Secretary to keep schools open. We all want to open schools.”
On Monday, Matt Hancock said discussions are under way about which groups will be prioritised for vaccinations once the elderly and clinically extremely vulnerable have all been inoculated.
So far, more than six million people have had their first dose – with the UK government and devolved administrations aiming to hit 15 million by mid-February.
Asked about the second phase of the vaccines rollout, Mr Hancock said: “There is a perfectly reasonable debate to be had about who should go in what order next, where teachers have got a good shout to be very high on that list.”
Only vulnerable pupils and children of key workers are currently able to attend school, and the prospect of classrooms reopening again next month appears remote.