Anger as NI police and teachers left out of vaccine priority groups

Police and teachers in Northern Ireland are diappointed at having been left out of an updated priority list for the vaccine roll-out.

By Niall Deeney
Friday, 26th February 2021, 4:35 pm
31/01/21.. MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA..PSNI and ATO at the scene of two security alerts on the banks of the River Bann, Agivey near Ballymoney. It is believed PSNI are investigating reports of a bomb below the Agivey Bridge and second device on the Glenstall Road nearby.Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia
31/01/21.. MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA..PSNI and ATO at the scene of two security alerts on the banks of the River Bann, Agivey near Ballymoney. It is believed PSNI are investigating reports of a bomb below the Agivey Bridge and second device on the Glenstall Road nearby.Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

The UK body responsible for identifying the priority groupings for coronavirus vaccinations has opted, instead, to continue offering jabs on the basis of age beyond the over-50s category.

Currently, there are nine priority groups on the list — beginning with care home residents and staff and ending with people aged between 50 and 54.

But the update guidelines from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommend that once everyone who is clinically vulnerable or aged 50-and-over is vaccinated, the roll-out should move next to the over 40s, followed to the over-30s with those aged 18-29 last on the list.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland, the body representing rank and file PSNI officers, described the decision to omit officers as “an insult”.

“I want the Justice and Health Ministers to step away from the JCVI decision and announce that our officers will be prioritised,” chairman Mark Lindsay said.

“Day and daily, our officers are at significant risk of infection as they police the pandemic. The decision of the JCVI fails to recognise those risks and, in my view, is an insult to frontline officers and is baffling and unjustified.”

Teaching union official Justin McCamphill, from the NASUWT trade union, also expressed disappointment.

“We are not happy,” he said. “Throughout this pandemic special school teachers have continued to deliver face-to-face teaching with limited protection and no social distancing.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health, however, said: “The roll out of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme will continue to be guided by JCVI advice. Prioritising clinical vulnerability saves lives and reduces levels of serious illness and hospitalisation.”