Teachers' unions seek 'urgent meeting' with department over vaccine rollout

The three unions have agreed to ballot for industrial action if the Government does not re-prioritise them
Teachers' unions seek 'urgent meeting' with department over vaccine rollout

Education Minister Norma Foley at the TUI conference this week. Picture: Tommy Clancy

The three teachers' unions have written a joint letter to the Department of Education seeking an "urgent meeting" in relation to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Government recently decided to change the Covid-19 vaccination programme to an age-based system, after the most medically vulnerable, healthcare workers and over-70s were inoculated.

However, this has caused upset among several frontline sectors, including teachers, who had been prioritised in the previous schedule.

At their annual conferences earlier this week, the three unions – the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) – each agreed to ballot for industrial action if the Government did not re-prioritise them.

In a letter sent to the department on Friday, the unions said they were "very anxious" to engage with the relevant officials to "get clarity on timeframes for the vaccination of our members".

"We would also wish to discuss several anomalies in the rollout of the vaccination programme that have arisen, and which have impacted on educational settings already," the letter said.

We are keen to work with you to progress the rollout of vaccines so that all teachers can be given assurance that they will be fully vaccinated at the earliest possible opportunity."

The letter also sought reassurance that pregnant teachers, those in higher-risk categories and those who work in special schools, special classes and homeschool community liaison teachers would be prioritised within the education workforce.

Education Minister Norma Foley had previously explained that the re-prioritisation was based on the most recent clinical guidance, which shows age is the biggest predictor of who will be most severely affected if they contract the virus.

Data from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) shows that compared with a healthy 20- to 34-year-old, someone aged between 55 and 65 is 70 times more likely to die due to Covid-19, more than 20 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care, and five times more likely to be hospitalised with the virus.

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