Petition Teachers should be included in the first wave of the Covid-19 Vaccine Programme.

With emerging evidence that links schools to high infection rates with the new strains of the virus, this is surely a sensible course of action and would give parents some degree of peace of mind.

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Ministers responded

This response was given on 8 February 2021

Teachers in an at-risk category will be captured in the 1st wave of the COVID vaccination delivery schedule. Further prioritisation by occupation has not been recommended by the UK’s JCVI at present.

Read the response in full

Vaccine delivery schedules require a prioritisation of recipients.

Decisions on who receives the COVID-19 vaccine have been made based on the best available evidence and advice from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)*. The first priorities for the current COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems (1).

On this basis, throughout December and January the COVID-19 vaccination programme commenced in Jersey with vaccinations being provided to:
• residents living in a registered care home 
• those working as carers in a care home for older residents
• front-line Health and Community Services staff

Following this the vaccine is now also being offered to the next priority group:
• those aged over 80 years

The vaccine will then be offered in the following order to:
• other health and social workers
• those aged over 75 years
• those aged over 70 years
• high risk Islanders
• those aged over 65 years
• adults under 65 years with long term conditions
• those aged 50 to 64 years
• other population groups who are able to be safely vaccinated.

This is being continually reviewed by the JCVI, an independent expert group (2).

Occupational vaccination (other than frontline health and social care workers):

The primary aim of the COVID-19 vaccination is to protect the person receiving it against severe illness.

The JCVI does not advise further prioritisation by occupation during the first phase of the vaccination programme. Under the priority groups listed above, those over 50 years of age, and all those 16 years of age and over in a risk group, would be eligible for vaccination in Jersey within the first phase of the programme. All teachers who are at high risk will therefore be eligible to be vaccinated in the first phase. This prioritisation captures almost all (estimated 99%) preventable deaths from COVID-19, including those associated with occupational exposure to infection (1).

The JCVI is currently of the view that the key focus for the second phase of vaccination could be on further preventing hospitalisation.

Vaccination of those at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 due to their occupation may or may not be a priority in the next phase. This could include first responders, the military, those involved in the justice system, teachers, transport workers, and public servants essential to the pandemic response (1).

Vaccination Panel:

There may be a very small number of people who should be offered advanced vaccination due to their individual circumstances. The Minister for Health and Social Services has, therefore, established a panel of clinicians and community representatives who will determine if any Islanders should be offered advanced vaccination.

That Panel will, in the coming 2 weeks, formally consider if advanced vaccination should be provided for teachers or others employed by the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department. The Panel will, when determining this matter, adhere to the JCVI priorities unless there are compelling grounds to do otherwise.

Reassurance:

The objective of occupational immunisation of health and social care staff is to protect workers at high risk of exposure who provide care to vulnerable individuals (3). Evidence suggests that schools do not amplify SARS-CoV-2 transmission but rather reflect the background levels of community transmission (4). Educational staff and adults within the school setting are therefore generally at no higher risk of infection than other occupations. Educational roles that put one in contact with many older children and/or many adults may be associated with higher risk (4). This has been reported with ‘moderate confidence’ meaning that the research provides a good indication of the likely effect. The likelihood that the effect will be substantially different is moderate (4). Transmission in older children and adults may be reflective of increased social interactions within the community.
Parental reassurance can be given that it is very rare for COVID-19 to present a severe health risk to their children. Evidence also suggests that if a child is infected by an adult it is far more likely to be in the household setting than a school setting (5). Within educational settings it has mainly been identified as adult to adult transmission. There is minimal evidence – either locally or internationally – suggesting child-teacher transmission. Schools are encouraged to continue to actively promote the public health measures which they are taking to reduce the risk of transmission within the school setting e.g.’bubbles’, staggered start and break times, hygiene and safety measures (4).

Furthermore, a programme is being rolled out offering every staff member in primary and secondary schools and colleges, plus students in Years 11 and above, a weekly Lateral Flow Test (LFT) on their school premises. LFT is a rapid self-administered test which can return results within 20 to 30 minutes of being taken. LFT provides an additional layer of preventative safety measures in schools by detecting asymptomatic cases.

Further considerations:

The implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine programme aims to achieve high vaccine coverage. Operational considerations include the supply of the vaccine and ensuring minimal wastage.

Summary:
Teachers falling into an at-risk category by nature of age or being high risk will be captured in the first wave of the COVID-19 Jersey vaccination programme as planned. Further prioritisation by occupation has not been recommended at present.

This response is by the Minister for Health and Social Services.

References:
1) UK Government. Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation: advice on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination, 30 December 2020. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020/joint-committee-on-vaccination-and-immunisation-advice-on-priority-groups-for-covid-19-vaccination-30-december-2020. Accessed 01/15, 2021.
2) Government of Jersey. COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Available at: https://www.gov.je/Health/Coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/BookCOVID19Vaccine.aspx. Accessed 01/15, 2021.
3) The Green Book. Chapter 14a - COVID-19 - SARS-CoV-2. Published December 2020. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/948757/Greenbook_chapter_14a_v4.pdf. Accessed 01/18, 2021.
4) European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission – first update. Published 23 December 2020. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-in-children-and-the-role-of-school-settings-in-transmission-first-update_1.pdf. Accessed 01/18, 2021.
5) Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in children aged 0 to 19 years in childcare facilities and schools after their reopening in May 2020, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Ehrhardt, J and Ekinci, A and Krehl, H and Meincke, M and Finci, I and Klein, J and Geisel, B and Wagner-Wiening, C and Eichner, M and Brockmann, SO, Eurosurveillance, 25, 2001587 (2020), https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.36.2001587. Accessed 01/18, 2021.

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