Teachers won't be prioritised for Covid vaccine, says Hancock
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Health secretary Matt Hancock has once again rejected calls for teachers to be given priority in the vaccine queue before schools fully return.
There has been a lot of pressure on the government from many quarters to prioritise key workers such as teachers and police officers in the vaccine rollout. Almost half a million people have signed a petition demanding school and childcare staff are given the jab as soon as possible.
Last month Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk George Freeman also said teachers and other key workers should be given priority, even suggesting they should get the vaccine before some elderly people.
And last weekend there were fresh calls for police officers to be given the jab, as they are required to regularly come into close contact with people.
But speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Hancock said, as it stands, teachers will not be given priority.
He said: "We've asked the expert group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), what order we should vaccinate in, broadly in order to reduce the number of deaths as fast as possible.
"I think everybody can understand why we asked that as the question.
"They set out the priority groups one to nine, which includes those who are clinically most vulnerable and their carers, and includes the over-50s, going down the age range.
"They are currently considering, after that, what might be the best order in terms of clinical priority.
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"There isn't strong evidence that teachers are more likely to catch Covid than any other group, but I'll leave it for the JCVI to set out what they think is the best order in which to do this that minimises the number of deaths."
The health secretary added there was evidence the vaccines could reduce transmission by two-thirds, which could be a factor in deciding whether to vaccinate children against Covid-19.
He said: "There are clinical trials under way as to whether children should be vaccinated. There are two points here. One is that it absolutely must be safe, specifically for children, so that is being currently investigated.
"The second is - because children very, very rarely get symptoms or serious illness from the disease - the value, the importance, of vaccinating children is to try to stop the spread of the disease."
He said the impact of the vaccine on stopping transmission is "something that we have early evidence" of.
"It looks like the first jab reduces your impact of transmitting the disease by about two-thirds, but we need more evidence on that as well."
Meanwhile, speaking to BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning, Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the JCVI, said he expected an announcement to be made around vaccine priorities some time in the next week.
Asked about a new priority list for people under 50, he said: "The strategy from JCVI that's being provided as advice to the Government is just being finalised at the moment, and then Government will make their decision as to how to do this during the coming days, so I think there'll be some kind of public announcement around that in the next week or so."
He said he could not say what he expected the priorities would be because that is something to be announced by the Government, not JCVI.
He added: "I think from what we've heard from Government already, the emphasis is on getting the programme done as fast as possible, but beyond that I can't make any further comment."
Prime minister Boris Johnson will on Monday announce his government's roadmap to the ending of lockdown in England, after pledging over the weekend to offer the Covid vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
Some details of what Mr Johnson will say have already emerged, such as care home visits being allowed from next month, while schools are also preparing to possibly welcome back all pupils within the next month.
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