Frontline workers and black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME) will not be prioritised in the next stage of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, a government source has suggested.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) updated its advice on Wednesday (24 February) so that all adults on the learning disabilities register will now be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine.
However, calls to allow prioritisation for the jab by occupation or race has been rejected by the JCVI, according to a government source. Instead, the vaccine rollout will proceed down the age bands of adults, targeting older groups first down to 18 year-olds.
The decision to not prioritise frontline workers, such as teachers and police, and BAME groups was made to ensure that those who are most likely to become seriously ill and die form coronavirus are targeted first.
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‘No good scientific reason’
The decision not to change the priority list for the Covid-19 vaccine comes after unions have argued that those working in frontline roles, such as teaching, should be included in the next stage of the rollout, after older groups and the clinically vulnerable.
Equality groups have also called for people from BAME communities to be prioritised, following research which showed they are more at risk of dying from coronavirus.
However, Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, said there was no good scientific reason to prioritise teachers.
Speaking to the Commons science and technology committee on Wednesday (24 February), he said: “We looked at the data very carefully on this, and when you look at ONS data, it doesn’t suggest that teachers are any more at risk of acquiring infections from coronavirus than any other occupation and there are other occupations more at risk than teachers,” he said.
“We know, for instance, that people who work in processing plants, who are in closed environments without ventilation and a great amount of noise and having to shout, are quite a lot more at risk than teachers who teach children wearing masks and have adequate ventilation.”
Who is on the priority list for the Covid vaccine?
The Covid-19 vaccine priority list is set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and includes nine categories.
Care home residents and their carers, plus people over the age of 80 and frontline health and social care workers, formed the top two priority groups.
This was followed by people aged 75 and over, and those deemed to be “clinically extremely vulnerable”.
These top four groups have now been offered their first dose, and the vaccination programme has moved into the next phase to cover the next five groups.
This includes the following:
- Group 5 – all those aged 65 and over
- Group 6 – adults aged 16 to 65 in an at-risk group
- Group 7 – all those aged 60 and over
- Group 8 – all those aged 55 and over
- Group 9 – all those aged 50 and over
Carers will also be offered the chance to get their first Covid-19 jab as part of the next phase, joining those who are clinically vulnerable and people aged 65 to 69 as the next in line.
The sixth group includes all individuals aged 16 to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality, as well as those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
Additionally, it was announced on Wednesday (24 February) that people with learning disabilities will be added to the priority list for vaccination.
Commenting on the announcement, Care Minister Helen Whately said: “I have heard first-hand how tough this pandemic has been for people with learning disabilities and their families. We are determined those more at risk from Covid should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Following the JCVI’s updated advice and to make this process simpler and faster, we will be inviting everyone for vaccination who is on their GP’s learning disability register.
“This will mean those who are at a higher risk from the virus can get the protection they need.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said he has asked the NHS to implement the advice “immediately”.