Politics

New Covid vaccine priority list unveiled for rest of UK as teachers miss out


Teachers and other key workers are not set to be prioritised in the final stage of the UK’s Covid vaccine rollout.

The vaccine authority today advised jabs to 21million healthy UK adults under 50 should go by age, not job title.

It had been hoped ministers would put teachers at the front of the queue in the second phase – which starts in mid-April once all over-50s and at-risk groups have been offered a first dose.

But the government will now obey advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – which today said jabs should go by age instead.

In a TV press conference, the JCVI announced there should be three priority groups in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout – people aged 40 to 49, aged 30 to 39 and aged 18 to 29.

That means there will be no special priority given either to teachers, police and other key professions, or to other people at higher risk factors due to being male, overweight, or from an ethnic minority background.

The decision prompted fury from teachers, police and campaign group Asthma UK.

Scroll down for the priority list in full.



It had been hoped teachers would get the jab first in the second phase - but it's less practical
It had been hoped teachers would get the jab first in the second phase – but it’s less practical

Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, told today’s press conference his committee had considered a job-based priority list, but age “remains a dominant factor” in risk – even in the under-50s.

He added switching to an occupation-based programme would be “untested and untried” and risked slowing down the rollout while “the queue is moving swiftly”.

The expert said: “Speed is important. Getting vaccines into arms as quickly as possible is the fastest and best way to maximise benefit to the population.”

He said people’s jobs are “not very well recorded” in GP records, so trying to target teachers would make things “even more difficult” for vaccine teams and “run the risk of missing some people”.

“The benefit may not be worth the effort,” he said. “On balance we felt it was simpler to keep everything as straightforward as possible.”



The JCVI's advice will prioritise people by age in Phase 2 - starting with people in their 40s
The JCVI’s advice will prioritise people by age in Phase 2 – starting with people in their 40s

Meanwhile the JCVI accepted large groups of people are at higher risk – including men, those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, those with a BMI over 30, and those living in deprived neighbourhoods.

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But they will not be given special priority either.

Instead they will be strongly urged to take up their jab offer promptly when it comes.

The UK government confirmed England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will all follow the advice revealed today.

A spokesman said: “Age is assessed to be the strongest factor linked to mortality, morbidity and hospitalisations, and because the speed of delivery is crucial as we provide more people with protection from COVID-19.

“All four parts of the UK will follow the recommended approach, subject to the final advice given by the independent expert committee.

“The UK Government remains on course to meet its target to offer a vaccine to all those in the phase one priority groups by mid-April, and all adults by the end of July.”



Stark slides suggest men are at greater risk - but they will not be prioritised
Stark slides suggest men are at greater risk – but they will not be prioritised

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will lead a Downing Street press conference today at 5pm where he is expected to accept and adopt the JCVI’s interim advice.

The decision could anger teachers’ unions and Labour, who had demanded priority for teachers as schools return in England from March 8.

Furious police leaders today blasted the decision. John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, called it a “contemptible betrayal of police officers”. He tweeted: “Their anger is palpable, this will not be forgotten.”

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said “I’m absolutely shocked” telling BBC News Channel: “My colleagues are genuinely scared not getting the vaccination.

“This government are creating a superspreader scenario. It’s absurd. I do not understand what is going on.”

He said police had lost 29 officers including seven in Scotland Yard, adding: “This is not about pitting us against others.

“This is about being very clear and understanding we do a job that no one else does in this country. We cannot afford a two metre parameter from people. We have to be in people’s faces at times.”



The announcement prompted fury from the Metropolitan Police Federation
The announcement prompted fury from the Metropolitan Police Federation

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school union, said: “The fact that it may have added some complexity to roll out is not a good enough reason.

“A sick teacher is a teacher away from class which will mean further disruption to pupil’s education and could well mean that they may need to be educated from home again.”

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was “disappointed”. The union leader added: “The Government needs to make a policy decision on this matter having insisted that education is a national priority and having announced a ‘big bang’ return to the classroom in England.”

Today’s announcement also provoked fury from Asthma UK – which said not all those with the condition are in the first phase of the rollout.

People with severe asthma who were told to shield were in priority group four, while some others – including sufferers who have ever had an emergency admission – are in group six.

But other asthma sufferers must now wait until their age band in the normal course of the rollout.

Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “There are thousands of people with asthma who will rightly feel anxious, angry and ignored by government.

“The government must reconsider this decision which is unacceptable and could put people with asthma at risk.”



Today's announcement also prompted fury from Asthma UK
Today’s announcement also prompted fury from Asthma UK

Downing Street said it was “right” to follow the JCVI’s advice which “will protect the most people and have the biggest impact on reducing NHS pressures”.

Asked if Boris Johnson was hiding behind the advice to avoid making a political decision, a No10 spokesman said: “No, I would not accept that.

“The JCVI have been clear in relation to the vaccination deployment and how that should look.

“”It’s right we accept their advice to continue to prioritise from age. This will protect the most people and have the biggest impact on reducing NHS pressures.”

David Salisbury, a former Director of Immunisation for the government, told the BBC he backed the age-based approach because it was the quickest way to get first doses into arms.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’d hate to think vaccine gets wasted because there are not people to match every dose.”

He added: “The logical prioritisation is to use age which is so much more demonstrable than saying ‘my job is this or my job is that.



Slides from the briefing showing the vaccine rollout has ramped up in recent weeks
Slides from the briefing showing the vaccine rollout has ramped up in recent weeks

“So whilst I do have a view that some occupations may justify some prioritisation, logistically the straightforward way to do it is through an age-based approach.”

Some 18.7million UK adults have now received their first dose of the Covid vaccine.

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In England, the NHS says it has given first doses to 94.3% of over-80s, 100.3% of 75-79s, 94.4% of 70-74s, 75.3% of 65-69s and 15.9% of under-65s.

One figure is over 100% because the NHS is relying on population estimates which are not completely accurate.

The jab has also gone to 96.4% of frontline NHS staff, 89.4% of the clinically extremely vulnerable and 89.6% of older care home residents.



Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to accept the JCVI's recommendations in a briefing tonight
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to accept the JCVI’s recommendations in a briefing tonight

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England (PHE), said there was emerging evidence about the success of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine in reducing cases and deaths.

She said: “We now are beginning to see signs that the rate of deaths and the rate of hospitalisations in those vaccinated age groups are declining at a faster rate than in the younger population.”

She added: “The age-based approach will ensure more people are protected more quickly. It is crucial that those at higher risk – including men and BAME communities – are encouraged to take the vaccine, and that local health systems are fully engaged and reaching out to underserved communities to ensure they can access the vaccine.”



No10 showed slides saying the vaccine is proving effective
No10 showed slides saying the vaccine is proving effective

The second phase will see the remaining 21million adults who have not yet had the jab by mid-April offered first doses up until July 31.

Their rollout for heathy under-50s is expected to be slower than the first phase because millions of people per week will need to go back for their second dose at the same time.

It comes after Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap to ending all legal lockdown restrictions in England by June 21 at the earliest.

The four-stage plan will allow schools and some limited outdoor contact from March 8, followed by groups of six people or two households being able to gather outdoors from March 29.

Non-essential shops, hairdressers and pub beer gardens will open from April 12 from the earliest, followed by indoor parts of venues from May 17.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to extend Covid support including the furlough scheme to the end of June in his Budget next week.

Vaccine priority list in full

Phase 1 Part 1 – everyone offered by February 15

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  • All those 80 years of age and over
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All those 75 years of age and over
  • All those 70 years of age and over
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (shielders)

Phase 1 Part 2 – everyone offered by April 15

  • All those aged 65-69
  • All those aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions – these include unpaid carers as well as people with diabetes, learning disabilities, morbid obesity, severe mental illness and other conditions.
  • All those aged 60-64
  • All those aged 55-59
  • All those aged 50-55

Phase 2 – everyone offered by July 31

  • All those aged 40-49
  • All those aged 30-39
  • All those aged 18-29





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