The HSE has apologised for the error that led to staff in special schools receiving a Covid vaccination out of turn, but unions have seized on it as an example of the priority that education staff deserve.
eachers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and some support staff from a number of special schools in the Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East areas received a jab on Tuesday.
The HSE said the workers in question were vaccinated in a belief that they fitted into the category of frontline health workers known as cohort 2.
“These staff work with children with disabilities, many of whom are in the very high or high-risk categories, and some support these people in residential and respite settings.
“However they should not have been vaccinated as part of cohort 2, though the decisions to do so were made in good faith. We apologise for this error.”
The revelation emerged after a week of heated debate about the controversial Government decision to drop vaccine prioritisation status for teachers and SNAs, with the possibility of industrial action on the issue.
The staff, from special schools in the HSE CHO6 area, were vaccinated at the Aviva Stadium Dublin, after receiving appointments last Friday.
One school principal told RTE that the HSE informed him all special schools in the CHO6 area were being contacted with the vaccine offer and around 50 teachers and SNAs were inoculated.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it should not have happened.
As the news was emerging yesterday, Mr Donnelly was asked about it on RTÉ and he said “what I’ve been told so far is that the CHO had special need assistants on their reserve list.”
He added: “That’s not something that’s meant to happen.
“That’s not something that’s happening nationally, and it’s not in line with the protocols. My understanding is that the CHO was trying to do the right thing, trying to make sure that there was a reserve list in place, however this reserve list is not the right way to do it.”
The Fórsa union, which represents SNAs, described it as a welcome development and one it wanted to see rolled out nationally.
Fórsa and teacher unions have asked the Government to reverse its decision to remove SNAs and teachers from the priority list and to include them under ‘category nine’ of its revised vaccine schedule, which includes people aged 16-64 who work in crowded settings.
In a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, said that SNAs worked in crowded settings where social distancing was not possible.
“There are few other groups outside health and social care who work on a consistent basis providing intimate care without the ability to maintain social distancing.
“In special schools, healthcare staff like nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists have all been vaccinated, whilst the SNAs who work alongside them have not,” he said.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle said reports that the “HSE has forged ahead and is now vaccinating teachers in special schools” had been their demand all along.
“We need that to continue and to be guaranteed to all workers in all our special schools,” he said.
Source: Irish News