UK

Half a million police officers and teachers could jump the queue for Covid-19 vaccine

Half a million police officers and teachers could jump the queue for Covid-19 vaccine if they are given priority in phase two of inoculation rollout, says Nadhim Zahawi

  • Police and teachers could be given priority in phase two of the vaccine rollout 
  • Shop workers are also being considered for priority says vaccine minister  
  • If the large numbers are given priority it could leave others waiting a lot longer 

More than half a million police officers and teachers could jump the vaccine queue if they are given priority in phase two of the rollout.

Hundreds of thousands of shop workers could also be added to the list, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said yesterday.

He added those who come into close contact with the public as a result of their jobs should be considered for priority access.

Police officers and teachers are among those being considered for priority in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine rollout

But any decision to give such a large number of people priority could be controversial as it would leave others waiting much longer.

Last night Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for a national debate on prioritisation.

The decision on who will get the jab and when will be taken by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. It has so far outlined only phase one of the rollout, covering everyone over 50, those with clinical vulnerabilities, care home residents and NHS and social care staff.

That should be completed by early spring and the committee is now deciding who should be top of the list in phase two.

Mr Zahawi told Times Radio yesterday: ‘Teachers, police officers, shop workers, those who through no fault of their own, other than the work that they do, may come into contact with the virus at much greater volume [should be] the top of the list.’

There are 408,615 teachers in state-funded English schools who are under 50, meaning they would not have been offered the jab in phase one. The statistics do not include teachers in the private sector.

As well as police and teachers, there are also suggestions of giving thousands of shop workers priority in the next vaccine phase. Picture: Stock

As well as police and teachers, there are also suggestions of giving thousands of shop workers priority in the next vaccine phase. Picture: Stock

In England and Wales, there are around 129,000 police officers under 55, with no breakdown for those under 50.

That makes around half a million, although the total will be higher when teachers and police officers from the rest of the UK are included.

It is not known whether Mr Zahawi was referring to all shop workers or just those working at the height of lockdown in supermarkets and corner shops.

Across the whole UK retail sector, there are 2.5million workers aged 55 or under. It is not known how many of these work in essential shops.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference yesterday, Mr Hancock outlined how a decision on vaccine priorities would be made. 

He said: ‘The clinical advice is to go through the top groups… and then after that it is essentially about protecting people as well as possible according to a judgment about who should come next.

‘That is why we should have a debate about that.

The move to vaccinate so many people, such as shop workers and teachers, could be controversial as it would leave others waiting much longer

The move to vaccinate so many people, such as shop workers and teachers, could be controversial as it would leave others waiting much longer

‘Ninety-nine per cent of deaths occur in the top nine groups and after that it is about protecting against transmission and getting life back to normal as soon as possible.’ 

Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, said: ‘We are learning about how well this vaccine protects against transmission and that knowledge will help inform the next decision-making process.

‘You may target groups that are transmitting more than others or are out there working.’

But she added that if it turns out that the vaccine does not protect much against transmission, another decision may be made.

Cabinet ministers such as Mr Hancock and Priti Patel have previously said police officers and teachers have a good case for being placed at the top of phase two of the rollout.

Mr Hancock said last night the UK has so far vaccinated just over 4million people. 

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