Education Minister Norma Foley rules out any Government U-turn on teacher vaccines

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Education Minister Norma Foley has ruled out a Government U-turn on the issue of teacher vaccinations

he said she understood the disappointment among teachers about no longer having prioritisation on the vaccine schedule – but said the Government was guided by medical and scientific advice.

“This is not a value judgment on any given profession. This is simply the science”, she told the annual conference of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).

The Government refusal to budge means that all three teachers unions will now ask their seek the support of their conference to ballot on industrial action.

Addressing the issue of the vaccination roll out, Ms Foley told the INTO delegates the new schedule had disappointed many in the education sector, as it has those in other sectors.

“I understand that sense of disappointment,” she said.

“For the past 12 months, we have been managing and living alongside a global pandemic which presents a significant threat to our healthcare systems and to our more vulnerable citizens.

“In all of these months, we have had to be flexible and resilient. We have had to adapt to new circumstances and challenges as they present themselves. And throughout it all, we in the education sector have been guided by public health and medical experts.

“At a briefing last Thursday for representatives of education unions and management bodies, Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, and Dr Kevin Kelleher of the HSE, presented the medical evidence underpinning the recent changes to the vaccine programme.

“Fundamentally, this recommendation has been driven by the fact that national and international evidence now confirms that age is the “strongest predictor” of whether a person who contracts Covid-19 will be admitted to hospital or ICU or die as a result of their infection.”

She said to put this into context, Professor Karina Butler of NIAC has confirmed if we compare a person aged between 30 and 34 with a person aged between 60 and 64, the person aged between 60 and 64 years old is 70 times more likely to die as a result of Covid-19 than the younger person.

This is the latest medical and scientific evidence available.

INTO general secretary John Boyle told the minister they were “crestfallen” and said the decision showed a “blatant disregard for our members’ safety”.

He said teachers must be reinstated to a priority group for early vaccinations .

Mr Boyle said reports last week seemed to suggest that the government was “not concerned about teachers who may contract this deadly virus or those who suffer the excruciating and debilitating impacts of long Covid.

“Rather, concern appears only to be with decreasing hospitalisations and taking the easy rather than the fair approach to vaccination.

“It is simply not good enough. When our members returned to schools in February and March with infection levels still extremely high , your Government promised in writing that they would be in the first one third to be vaccinated.

He said when INTO members returned to schools in February and March with infection levels still extremely high, “your government promised in writing that they would be in the first one third of the population vaccinated.

“Last week, your Government broke that promise. It’s simply not good enough Minister.”

He repeated his call for teachers to be considered in the new group nine on the revised vaccine list, which gives priority to those who work in crowded settings.

“Surely spending nearly six hours a day in a small room with children from 25 or more families is a crowded setting,” he said

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Source: Irish News