No, teachers should not be prioritised for Covid 19 vaccinations 

I was surprised yesterday to see a tweet from Layla Moran saying that after talking to local head teachers she thinks teachers should be in the first wave of the vaccine.  Later on I saw that there is a campaign by the NEU
for this and I was surprised when I said on twitter that I disagreed with her, how strong the reaction was.

There are three reasons why I think this is not a good idea.

The first and most important is that I do not believe that the  such a sensitive question as who gets priority for vaccines should be decided by politicians or pressure groups.  The current schedule is the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)an independent group of scientists. We would rightly be outraged if the Government started interfering with their recommendations and this is an area politicians should not get involved with.

The second reason is that logically if you wish to add half a million teachers to the first wave, you are going to have to not give it to some of those who would otherwise get it (given that supplies are currently limited). Those people are there though because either they are in NHS and care jobs who need to keep the NHS running or because they are at high risk. There is a very clear link between age and  mortality which is why as well of course as vulnerable people, the current recommendations are based on age.  The JCVI state that “taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19”.   99% is a  very high % so why would we want to vaccinate as a priority teachers who would cause that percentage to fall?

The third reason is that it is clear from the reaction on social media that many people see schools as being a uniquely  bad breeding grounds for infections putting teachers at particular risk. The data doesn’t seem to support that. Infection rates are about the same as in the Community, though of course that might change with the more infectious strain of the virus. 

None of this of course means that we should not continue to support schools and teachers in the immensely difficult job they are having  to do. Hopefully we will soon be in a position to vaccinate everyone who wants it.



* Simon McGrath is a councillor in Wimbledon and a member of the board of Liberal Reform.

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  • 100% agree with this article Simon.

  • Paul Barker 22nd Dec '20 - 2:40pm

    This seems very reasonable, very Liberal.
    I voted for Layla in the Leadership contest but I acknowledge that she has problems with Judgement & a tendency to chase Bandwagons.

  • It depends what is meant by ‘first wave’. If you think she means that they should get them now, at the same time as front line health care workers, then no, that’s not right. If you think she meant they should get them before a 50 year old with no health concerns, who works from home, then that sound very sensible.

    It’s already been a great concern to teachers that they are having to work in an environment where social distancing is almost impossible, in contact with dozens of people a day. The rough theory is that children don’t transmit the virus, which was always a bit questionable. It’s mainly been that they don’t transmit it as much, but if this new virus does spread more readily amongst children, or at least amongst teens, then teachers are very much worthy of being prioritised.

    There may be a case for restricting this priority to teachers and teaching assistants who work in special needs schools and high school teachers. But don’t forget, it’s not just about them being at greater risk, but about the disruption caused if one has to isolate for a fortnight. The education of dozens of kids will be impacted each time a teacher is off sick.

    I’m definitely not saying that teachers should get it before pensioners, or even that all teachers should get it by the time everyone over 50 gets it, but a review of their risks, especially with new knowledge of this new strain, is reasonable.

  • I think Carers should be one of the first in line and was very disheartened to see they have not been included in the list of priorities. I am not talking about professional carers but ordinary carers who provide vital care and support to vulnerable family members.

    Of course it must be a priority to vaccinate the most vulnerable first who are most at risk of hospitalisation or sadly death and front line workers, but surly it should also be a priority to vaccinate the millions of ordinary carers who look after a vulnerable family member? After all they provide vital support to vulnerable people who otherwise cannot look after themselves and would need the support from NHS or social services instead.
    It is vital that these carers get vaccinated early on in the program as far as I am concerned so they can continue to provide the care and support that is vitally needed to these vulnerable people.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Dec '20 - 4:21pm

    Anyone who is required to work in close proximity to 30 or so other people, especially those who can’t be relied upon to regularly wash hands and wear masks etc, should be given priority.

    It’s simply not reasonable to expect anyone to work in such unsafe conditions. This argument could well apply to school students too.

    The alternative is to close schools until the virus is brought under control.

  • Richard Easter 22nd Dec '20 - 4:48pm

    The problem is that this then becomes a battle of “which key worker more deserving”. Let’s look at three other groups of key workers.

    There have been serious outbreaks amongst GWR rail workers in Devon leading to mass cancellations of trains. Should rail workers take priority over teachers? After all they are suffering now and with the absolutely barmy behaviour of idiots crowding in London – trains are arguably deathtraps now – we can simply shut the schools down for the moment.

    Ahh but then:

    Tesco have said that workers in Exmouth have tested positive for the virus. Well we all need food. Surely in the short term food is more important than schools or trains… Get Tesco staff vaccinated is even more of a priority surely?

    But hold on a second:

    The Met Police have 600 officers off with the virus. The Police Federation has warned that police officers could be superspreaders if they aren’t vaccinated. Should the police take priority over shop workers, rail workers and teachers – given that groceries can be delivered instead – or we can use other shops, trains can be cancelled too as well as schools shut temporarily – but we need the police 24/7.

    Let scientists decide. Else this sort of issue plays out. By the way I think teachers, supermarket staff, rail workers and police should ALL be high priority. And I thank them all for their hard work and condemn anyone making their lives hell by refusing to behave and obey distancing and other restrictions.

  • Well, yet again it appears Scotland takes a more sophisticated line than England, (or directly elected members of the South East of England dominated Federal Board for that matter – and who clearly pay no attention to UNICEF recommendations).

    ‘The Times’, 17 December :

    “Teachers with serious health conditions in Scotland will be next in line for the coronavirus vaccine, the scientist leading the rollout has revealed. Care home residents and staff began receiving the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine this week and work is ongoing to get it to people aged 80 and over in the community.

    Vulnerable teachers and other key workers will follow alongside those in their seventies, according to Professor Wei Shen Lim (Nottingham University) and chair of Covid-19 immunisation at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Professor Lim told the Covid-19 committee at Holyrood that people aged 80 and over were being prioritised because the virus is killing too many too soon even when their age is taken into account”.

    As for Layla, at least she gets a bit of coverage and comes out with some original stuff – which is more than can be said for serving in a chippy and visiting a Zoo.

  • Interesting to note how out of step Mr McGrath, “Rob”, and the ever optimistic Mr 6% Paul Barker are with the Liberal Democrat Leader in Scotland, Willie Rennie MSP, who said in his Christmas message to members :

    “We voiced the worries of shielding teachers”.

  • @Peter Martin – I don’t agree with your reasoning.

    Lots of people work in high risk situations, e.g. transport workers, retail workers, factory workers, hospitality workers, etc. The list is almost endless. Teachers are at least in some control of their charges such as behaviour and will get vaccinated according to age like everyone else.

    It is not entirely clear whether children can pass on the virus to the same extent as adults. It is clear that many children seem not to suffer ill effects from the virus and most would not even be aware if they contracted it.

    Your suggestion that school children need to be vaccinated as a priority seems ludicrous to me.

  • David Allen 22nd Dec '20 - 7:27pm

    Hmm. Well, it can be argued that teachers are not the only people who deserve high priority. Then again, it can be argued that an education spokesperson is doing a reasonable job when standing up for teachers, and that someone else can and will make the case for carers, NHS staff and others at high risk.

    So why is this particular tweet attacting political flak? Perhaps it’s that common phenomenon, whereby, whenever a Laboratory Party politician makes remarks that can possibly be criticised, a horde of Conservatory Party politicians race in to ridicule and condemn?

    Ah, perhaps not. Because the criticised and the critic come from the same party. So the critic wouldn’t be starting a petty spat for dubious political reasons. No of course not.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Dec '20 - 7:50pm

    The benefit of vaccinations isn’t just for the recipient of the vaccine. So, although it might appear heartless to say it, it doesn’t follow scientifically that the most personally vulnerable should be first in the queue.

    Those who are more likely to be infected and spread the virus are the highest priority. I think we can all agree health workers come into this category but teachers and their students have a good case too.

  • Steve Trevethan 22nd Dec '20 - 8:59pm

    Might we put some time, effort and emotion, personal and party, into drawing to the attention of our nation the ineptitude and corruption of the current government?

    “40,000 excess deaths could have been avoided if the government had acted responsibly.” (Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to H.M.G: 29/5/20)

    Of nearly $22bn spent on P.P.E. etc., “about $11bn went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy.” (“The New York Times”)

  • @Peter Martin

    “So, although it might appear heartless to say it, it doesn’t follow scientifically that the most personally vulnerable should be first in the queue.”

    Surely the number 1 aim of vaccination is to reduce severe illness which results in the need for hospital treatment and sadly deaths.
    By targeting that 1st you reduce the strain on the NHS so that it is able to manage all accidents and sickness and diseases without being overwhelmed.
    Once you have reduced that pressure you then look to vaccinating the rest of the population.

  • So who does Layla think should have their priority downgraded to make way for the teachers?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Dec '20 - 2:14am

    @ Matt,

    “…the number 1 aim of vaccination is to reduce severe illness which results in the need for hospital treatment and sadly deaths.”

    Yes. Of course.

    But a vulnerable person, in a high risk age group, is unlikely to be infected by another person in a high risk age group. They have been isolating for months now. They are more likely to pick up an infection from a younger person who is asymptomatic and unknowingly carrying the virus. So the public health benefits to vaccinating what we might term the spreaders shouldn’t be overlooked.

    This is not to say that the vulnerable shouldn’t be vaccinated. But the priority should be to get as many people as possible vaccinated in the shortest period of time. We shouldn’t waste time deciding on priorities. The virus will be stopped in its tracks if we vaccinate enough people. Say 60% of the population. Any 60% will be just as effective as any other 60%. Anyone will do in other words!

  • Lets stop be selfish for a moment and think how we can stop Covid spreading rather than when we can get the vaccine.
    Schools, especially secondary schools, & Universities have been one of the biggest vectors in spreading the virus. If we want to stop that spread, then we should be focusing the vaccine on those most likely to spread it.
    We can’t close the schools indefinitely as that would adversely affect the education of current school students (especially those in poorer parts of the country who already suffer from lower attainment) so maybe we should be vaccinating not just teachers but also all 11 to 25 year olds as quickly as possible.
    This would not only protect the young people involved but also stop them spreading to to their parents & grandparents, allowing them to carry on working and keeping the economy going

  • Layla is an experienced teacher. She is a compassionate and well informed Liberal, 30 years as a Governor , 24 as a county Councillor specialising in Education means that I trust her judgement.

  • Peter Davies 23rd Dec '20 - 9:11am

    If vaccination is part of an integrated strategy with personal and business restrictions designed to balance death reduction, infection reduction and liberty and economic factors, of course it is political. Throughout this crisis, “We’re following the science” has generally meant “It’s not our fault”.

    The science we are following should look at the level of risk to life of the individual. That’s the risk of dying if you catch it times the chances of your catching it. (and a fifty year old with a high contact job in a big household in an overcrowded area will have a higher risk than an 80 year old living on their own). On top of that, it should look at the risk of infecting others. We don’t know yet how much vaccination reduces risk of transmission but it certainly has some effect. That should weight the decision towards earlier vaccination for those at a high risk of catching the disease rather than those at risk of dying if they do.

    Would teachers be higher up the list under that strategy? probably not much.

  • John Marriott 23rd Dec '20 - 9:29am

    The cynic might argue that, as so many teachers were ‘working’ at home last Spring, still drawing a full salary unlike many others in our ‘working’ population, they ought at least to get behind NHS and Care Home staff, who have been in the thick of it throughout the year, before they are entitled to their shot.

  • Richard Underhill. 23rd Dec '20 - 9:54am

    Paul Barker 22nd Dec ’20 – 2:40pm. Layla should leave well alone
    WHO are the World Health Organisation. The UK should cooperate with the WHO and set an example, The outgoing President of the USA is setting a bad example, as a self declared nationalist, America first.

  • Elaine Woodard 23rd Dec '20 - 9:56am

    @LeonDuveen. I thought I’d read there was no guarantee that the vaccine would stop someone spreading the disease. Some of the trials only looked at whether people became ill.

  • “The cynic might argue that, as so many teachers were ‘working’ at home last Spring,”

    And the cynic would be wrong and simply parroting Tory propaganda. Teachers were not at home (unless isolating as with other workers) they were still in schools, keeping them open for children of key workers and vulnerable children. They were also providing on line learning for other children to keep up with their education.

  • John Marriott 23rd Dec '20 - 10:54am

    @Leon Duveen
    Not from my experience, matey. Now whose propaganda are YOU reading, and I was a teacher for 34 years, man and beast?!

  • The primary purpose of a vaccine is to protect the individual receiving the vaccine. Slowing the spread is a secondary benefit. It is unethical to medically treat an individual with the primary aim of treating a third party.

    It is not yet clear to what extent Covid vaccines will actually reduce transmission rather than reducing symptoms so it is very premature to encourage universal uptake.

    Arguments from Peter Martin and others that those most vulnerable should not be the first priority for a vaccine are bizarre and dangerous. Hopefully once people who are most susceptible to serious illness from Covid have received the vaccine, there will be a sharp drop in deaths and hospitalisations.

    Prority should only change if the new strain behaves differently in terms of who it makes seriously ill which needs to be monitored. As it stands, teachers do not need to be a priority unless they are already in a priority group for another reason.

  • @John Marriott
    I don’t know where and when you taught but all the teachers I know who are currently working in state schools were working during Lockdown 1.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Dec '20 - 12:54pm

    The article is right and wrong

    Right in its viewing others as needing it first.

    Wrong in not viewing teachers as needing it more though

    Many here seem to believe Layla is jumping on bandwagons.

    That is how Ed works too, more so.

    Constant personal comments on Johnson, little analysis or altering of his message to actual ideas.

    The party cares, but that is not enough. Ditto the Labour relaying of similar.

    We need Layla, she has the most to say that is different to the usual nonsense about the economy, and does not act as though the economy is a sacred cow.

    The party ought to quote Mill on harm, but prefers to quote pub owners more!

  • John Marriott 23rd Dec '20 - 1:35pm

    @Leon Duveen
    As far as I can recall, you used to live in the 21st century part of the East Midlands (Notts/Derby’s?). I live in Lincolnshire, which is barely in the 20th.

  • The policy is to give the vaccine to those most likely to become seriously ill and die if they catch the virus. This will prevent deaths and reduce the strain on the NHS.

    We do not know if it has an effect on infection transmission.

    There would be no problem with most healthy adults and children catching the virus, particularly if they suffer only mild symptoms or no symptoms. In fact, provided their acquired antibodies prevent further infection, this would move us in the direction of herd immunity which would help to defeat the virus.

    However, we cannot just let the virus rip, because the vulnerable I first mentioned would be at even greater risk, together with the NHS. All of the distancing measures and lockdowns are necessary to protect the vulnerable and consequently the NHS.

    Now consider the value of using large quantities of vaccine on teachers and children.

  • Peter Davies 23rd Dec '20 - 4:29pm

    This is the best official word I could find on risky occupations
    Teaching does not appear in the list. It may move up a bit if the new strain is better at transmitting through children.

  • With 24 hour news coverage on the subject, why do some people still have no idea about the vaccine policy?

    The aim of the vaccine treatment is not to suppress transmission of the virus. We do not even know whether it can do that. The aim of vaccination is to prevent serious illness, death and overwhelming of the NHS.

    Preventing transmission is not an objective because that is impractical at this stage of the pandemic and unrealistic for many reasons. Preventing uncontrolled catastrophic rates of transmission is an objective because that would lead to too many critically ill and dying and would overwhelm the NHS. Lockdown is the answer to slowing transmission, but with direct damage to the economy. Keeping transmission rates manageable is the objective, and that is the purpose of tier systems and lockdowns.

    There is no point in wasting time and vaccine giving it to people who will probably have very mild or zero symptoms. There is no point in giving vaccine to peple to prevent transmission when we do not have the evidence that it will achieve that.

    There is every point in giving vaccine to people who are almost certain to become critically ill, occupy intensive care beds then tragically die as a result of contracting the virus. The roll out plan is to do just that.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Dec '20 - 10:06pm

    @ Marco,

    “It is unethical to medically treat an individual with the primary aim of treating a third party.”

    What nonsense.

    The purpose of a vaccination program is to wipe out the virus in a population. The reason you, as a third party, don’t need to be vaccinated against smallpox is because it has been successfully globally eradicated by what you would term ‘unethical’ practice of looking beyond the effects of the vaccine on particular individuals.

  • Martin, organisms are defeated when they can no longer find hosts in which they can replicate. One way of achieving this is by herd immunity when most people have had the virus and then possess antibodies that prevent further infection. This situation can also be achieved by natural infection, vaccination or a combination of both.

    However, with any new pathogen, we cannot be sure that prior infection guarantees future immunity. Common influenza mutates sufficiently each year to be a problem every year. That is the basis of my comment that vaccination may not guarantee freedom from further infection. It does protect against the particular variant it simulates.

    But it is estimated that only about 6% of the UK population has had the virus, so we have an extremely long way to go before any sort of immunity is achievable. That is why protection is being given as a priority to those most likely to die from the infection. That is a step towards overall immunity, saves lives and saves intensive care beds in the NHS.

    The vaccination of teachers or children would not achieve all of these things since most teachers or children are unlikely to become critically ill or die.

  • David Evershed 23rd Dec '20 - 11:38pm

    The evidence is that teachers are at no greater risk of getting the coronavirus than others.

    LibDems claim to be evidence led. Lets abide by that.

  • I thought the aim of vaccines, for the most part, was to beef up immune systems so that the body is able to defend itself from infection, hence people get vaccinated every year for different strains of flue based on the most likely mutation. No coronavirus has ever been totally eliminated and in most healthy people they have little long term impact. This one barely effects the young or the healthy. The reason for lockdowns is that at the start of the outbreak it was thought that no one had any immunity because it was a novel/new coronavirus, but this ignores the possibility of that exposure to other coronaviruses built in much greater levels of resistance than assumed, hence large numbers of asymptomatic and mild cases. It is not a death sentence. Older people and those with underlying health conditions have recovered without medical intervention. The medical advise if you test positive or exhibit symptoms is basically to stay at home and not to run to the nearest hospital.
    What galls me is that, with months of lockdowns and vast public spending, there appears to have been no effort whatsoever to expand capacity within the NHS. Why, given that you can furlough people for months on end, destroy livelihoods and wreck civil society because it turns out our government in fact does have “a magic money tree”, can you not simply pump more money into expanding health service provision?

  • @ Peter Martin

    No it isn’t nonsense. Smallpox is one of the only diseases to ever be fully eradicated. That was done by extensive case and contact tracing. Only infected people and their contacts were vaccinated. And this was for a disease with an infection fatality of rate of about 30%, which is many orders of magnitude more lethal than Covid 19.

    Respiratory viruses such as Influenza and Coronaviruses have never been wiped out as it is impractical to do so. They are endemic and seasonal viruses. Vaccine coverage for influenza is not universal but targeted mainly at those at higher risk in order to mitigate their impact.

  • This is all a bit silly. There are so many groups who could be judged as very high priority.
    What about Social and Mental Health Workers who have had to go into peoples homes for 3 hours or more, throughou the epidemic, not knowing the covid state state of the unmasked people involved, ! . I had one recent experience when we were also assaulted during such a visit, try maintaining any social distancing in that situation. BUT that doesn’t mean I should get any priority because of my job. My age Yes, maybe I’m well over retirement age. You might as well argue that anyone who travels by tube twenty minuites each way, each day should be so worthy. Layla probably needs to reconsider.

  • Tricky when there are limited supplies of the vaccine. We want teachers to be confident about their ability to interact with pupils and other staff. I’m tempted to support vaccinating them because in person teaching is so important. Also, teachers moving between classes are at risk of spreading the virus. They should receive daily tests until vaccinated.

  • Peter Martin 24th Dec '20 - 1:34pm

    @ David Evershed,

    If you want evidence you might want to observe the interaction of a group of children and count up how many times they don’t stick to the 2 metre rule, pick their noses, wipe their noses on the back of their hands, cough or sneeze with using a tissue etc. Notice how often they don’t wash their hands! You’ll soon be counting in big numbers! Children are children. That’s just the way they are.

    You could take some measurements in a local classroom and work out how it might be possible for 30 children plus their teachers to fit in and still keep two metres apart. You’ll find more than enough evidence of what is and is not possible!

    The first lock down, with the schools closed, worked reasonably well. The second lock down, with the schools still open, hasn’t worked well at all. I’m not saying the schools are the only difference but they are a big factor.

    We all agree we want the schools to remain open. But there’s hardly any point when so many children have to be sent home to isolate for two weeks at a time after cases of Covid are confirmed. Or they have no teacher because they are self isolating. Or they or their teacher are off sick with the virus themselves.

    The only way to keep the schools reliably open is to vaccinate a high proportion of both pupils and staff.

  • Peter Martin 24th Dec '20 - 1:46pm

    @ Marco,

    To use a footballing analogy: You can keep the ball out of your own goal if you have a good goalkeeper. But, it’s better to have a good defence and better still to keep the ball in the opponents half. That way it doesn’t get in range of your own goal.

    The sensible way to protect the most vulnerable from any virus is to keep it well away from them and that can only be done by making sure that those who are in contact with them are virus free as far as possible. Yes we give them vaccinations but the ‘spreaders’, who may not appear to be such deserving cases individually, have to be included in the program too.

  • Peter Martin 24th Dec '20 - 2:07pm

    The argument during the summer was that if we’d only been as efficient with our tracing and tracking as the Germans we wouldn’t be in anywhere near such bad shape.

    Not any longer. They’ve lost control too. The situation in Germany is as bad as anywhere and getting worse. They’ve just reported 952 deaths in a 24 hour period.

    Let’s just concentrate on getting as many people as possible vaccinated, as quickly as we can, without worrying who is more or less deserving. This is the only chance of stopping the virus now.

  • “David Evershed : The evidence is that teachers are at no greater risk of getting the coronavirus than others.”

    Mr Evershed is probably strictly correct as far as that goes, but as is often the case with what’s left (or right) of the retrenchment wing relic of the Lib Dems, he needs to consider the wider picture.

    According to Government teachers, are key workers…. They enable parents to continue to work and maintain economic activity. It’s much more than whether teachers catch covid from kids… it’s about catching it from anybody else…with a consequent knock on effect on their availability to teach and keep kids in school..

  • Helen Dudden 24th Dec '20 - 5:59pm

    I saw it written, that, it’s not understood what the effects of the vaccines will be in real terms. The flu virus, is always changing, so perhaps a different view might be more positive. Symptoms of the flu, and you stay home. We always took time off, and just took good care of your health, with bed rest if that helped. The provisions must be in place, that’s a proper sick pay. I can remember how it took a few weeks to get back on your feet.
    The underground in London is always packed with commuters, that’s one way to pass thing’s on very quickly. Crowded buses and trains.
    Perhaps time, to learn extra hygienic, and better ways to produce a cleaner transport environment.
    School Teachers, are in a situation where it is difficult to control hygiene, my little granddaughter is always being reminded to wash her hands. That’s children. If we aren’t careful this constant Covid, Covid is going to make even more people depressed.
    Has no one thought about producing a risk assessment, of, who would benefit the most?
    I don’t want the vaccine, I’ve had problems from a medication that has affected me badly, it does happen.
    Actually, if I could I would give mine to a teacher, I can choose where I go, and am not mixing that closely with many other’s.
    The situation of Care Homes being infected, was the ill thought out, sending Covid patients there.

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Dec '20 - 7:30am

    “What galls me is that, with months of lockdowns and vast public spending, there appears to have been no effort whatsoever to expand capacity within the NHS.”

    Wouldn’t that presuppose the ‘government’ was actually in favour of expanding NHS capacity? (Unless maybe they confine their efforts to outsourcing services to private sector firms who don’t appear to have a clue what they’re doing but who might be part of the chumocracy)

    When the people ‘running’ the country can generally afford to pay for private health care for themselves and their families why should they care about the long-term wellbeing of the NHS or the vast majority of the people who actually depend on it?

  • Peter Martin 25th Dec '20 - 8:06pm

    @ Glenn,

    There probably is enough capacity if you count all the ‘Nightingale’ beds. The problem will be the availability of enough medical staff. They’ll be hard to find at the moment.

  • James Fowler 25th Dec '20 - 8:35pm

    @Peter – ‘It is estimated that only 6% of the UK population have had the virus’. I’m really curious about that. Ca. 2.2 million cases (3.2% of the population) have been officially reported, though anecdotally I think this is a gross underestimate.
    My thought is that there have been 70 000 deaths from a virus with a reported average 0.5 to 1% mortality rate, so 7-14 million people i.e. 10-20% of the population have probably had the virus?

  • James, you may be right. There are lots of different estimates and nobody knows the right answer because many people have been infected and passed it on without ever being aware of it. The point is that the percentage is still vey low, whether it is 6% or 16%. The good news is that for the majority it is a mild illness and for the minority who might become seriously ill or worse, we have the vaccine.

    The challenge is to minimise the infection rate until the vulnerable are all vaccinated.

  • Very much agree with the article.

    Teachers are a higher priority than I am, but at least half a dozen other occupations are almost certainly higher still – bus drivers, taxi drivers, shop workers, care workers, police, security guards,… – and vulnerability is more important than occupation at least for now.

    What this episode shows is that teachers have a more effective lobby than any of these other occupations. Well done them. But maybe let’s calibrate our response accordingly and listen more carefully to other groups that aren’t so well lobbied for.

  • What about Social and Mental Health workers. They have been visiting people in their homes since March, often staying for up to three hours with no knowledge of the COVID state of the person they are visiting. The list of potential priorities is endless. You could argue that anyone who commutes by tube each day is a deserving case! Suggest it is best if our MPs steer clear of this issue.

  • @ Theakes “What about Social and Mental Health Workers who have had to go into peoples homes for 3 hours or more”

    They get it as a priority, Theakes.

  • Helen Dudden 27th Dec '20 - 11:47am

    theakes. How about who else had visited them?
    The Conservative Government, has done little to recognise the effect, all this has on some one with mental health.
    We constantly hear, how we can’t do this or that, because we may get the virus.
    How about those working in supermarkets? Bus drivers, these workers have continued through all this hype.
    I felt totally incensed by the lorry drivers stuck at Dover. The thoughts that only a 100 lorry drivers was far from the truth. Actually, I felt quite humbled by the thoughts, these lorry drivers, have been bringing us goods through the virus and were now left with nothing other than what they were being given. It left me feeling quite sad over the holidays.

  • Peter Martin 27th Dec '20 - 2:54pm

    There have been reports in the press that not enough of the elderly are taking up the offer of vaccines and so medical centres are having to discard vaccine doses that cannot be used as they have been thawed out for too long.

    From, an admittedly back of envelope calculation, it is, at this rate, going take far too long ( several years) to vaccinate the population to herd immunity level. We need to get doses into arms and fast. Just which arms doesn’t matter too much at this stage.

  • Yes, social care and mental health workers are already in one of the highest priority groups. No-one is suggesting that teachers would skip in front of them or nurses.

    The danger at looking at old figures for risks to teachers is that they include that time when the schools were shut and most teachers were teaching online. Or those working in schools had more space and it was warm so they could keep the windows open all day. And of course if this new strain is more infectious in children, then the old data sets are even less relevant. The changing risks applies to all sectors of society, and we should be open to adjusting the priority list as the situation changes.

    We’re also considering more than whether teachers will become seriously ill, but the level of disruption caused each time a teacher is required to self-isolate. Some teachers in Scotland were told to switch off the surveillance app whilst at work, specifically to avoid the situation where they get told to isolate.

    There’s also the practicalities of how the vaccine is distributed and if you try to fine tune the order too much, it gets confusing and slows things down. For example, I know a consultant psychiatrist who sees most of his patients via video call these days, and as he does child and family psychiatry, his patients are all under 18. But he’s been told he’ll be vaccinated in January. Most teachers will be at much greater risk than him, but it’s just easier for the NHS to vaccinate all clinical staff who might see patients, and presumably have that in place as there is the theoretical possibility that he might be called in to help with normal patients in an emergency.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Dec '20 - 4:26pm

    Once again Simon comes up trumps as my political weathervane. (If he says something I invariably think the opposite!!!) Happy New Year, Simon!

  • David Raw: Fionna. Think you are confusing the group I was describing with Social Care staff in Residential Homes for the Disabled and Elderly.
    PS I work on the ground for a Social Services Emergency Team and am in my upper seventies. No priority as such for me. Do not see why I am anymore a priority than those tube travellers I referred to.

  • @ Theakes No, Sir, I didn’t misunderstand you. My daughter, a Social Worker in Yorkshire, received her vaccination nine days ago.

  • Simon McGrath 28th Dec '20 - 9:09am

    thanks all.The question those who would like to prioritize teachers need to answer- and those who disagree with me have not – is how many extra deaths they are willing to accept if we do this. Given that the JCVI say that there current plans will stop 99% of avoidable deaths there will clearly be more deaths.

  • Peter Martin 28th Dec '20 - 10:12am

    @ Simon,

    The counter argument is that a change of prioritising towards the vectors of transmission rather than the most vulnerable actually leads to a lower death toll.

    My own view is that any prioritising takes up valuable time and slows the process of vaccinating the population – leading to more avoidable deaths. Therefore it is total numbers that matter rather than numbers in any particular category.

  • Simon McGrath 28th Dec '20 - 11:36am

    Peter – that is certainly a possibility. but not one accepted by the JCVI -not being an expert in this area i think we should take their advice

  • David Raw: Baffling! Have all in her office been done?

  • @ Theakes Yes, and her colleagues are all in process of being vaccinated. She spends some time in her office, but part of the brief is to make home visits.

    I don’t see why it’s “baffling” given the child and adult safeguarding issues she often has to deal with. As a former Convenor of Social Work in Scotland, I found many Lib Dems had very little knowledge of what’s involved in social work. If they had, they wouldn’t have been in such a rush to introduce the 2010-15 welfare cuts.

    The few that did included Sarah Teather, Tim Farron and Andrew George.

  • Another point not mentioned that I can see is what about teachers who might not want the vaccine? This policy would pressurise them into it. A teacher might have legitimate concerns about long-term side effects.

  • Peter Martin 29th Dec '20 - 2:53pm

    @ Simon,

    I agree that we’d need to follow JCVI advice. I have had a look at papers like this on the optimal vaccination strategy but I’d question whether enough is known at this point for their models to be reliable.

    If we assume that the vaccine is equally effective for all and everyone is as likely as any other to transmit the infection then it obviously makes sense to prioritise the vulnerable. However these won’t be good assumptions. Older people are less likely to produce a strong immune response are also less likely to be effective vectors. But we don’t know how much less in each case.

    In the absence of knowing, we’ll have to go with what seems to be the obvious. I suspect the obvious won’t be quite right and that we’ll only get on top of the situation when we start to vaccinate those who are potentially asymptomatic and therefore unknowing carriers. And they will be younger people who won’t, as individuals, be high on anyone’s priority list.

  • The vulnerable should get the vaccine first. The entire logic of the current measures is to protect the vulnerable and save the NHS. As 99+% of the population are at no serious risk then it is it incumbent upon those who are to be more proactive so that life can return to normal. The duty to protect others cuts both ways. People have lost livelihoods, liberty, and even their lives as a direct result of the lockdowns. The indirect cost is even higher. The main advantage of treating the vulnerable first is that it prioritises the limited supply of vaccine to the most immediate effect.

  • Richard Underhill. 30th Dec '20 - 10:01am

    23rd Dec ’20 – 9:54am
    Today 30/12/2020 the Oxford vaccine has been approved and manufacture by
    AstroZenica is happening worldwide.

  • Totally agree with you Simon.

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