Teachers should have been offered COVID vaccinations before reopening of schools says Leeds councillor

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The government has missed an opportunity to vaccinate teachers in a move that would have given confidence to parents and staff that schools were safe to return, says a Leeds councillor.

Coun Peter Gruen, who is also chair of the Gorse Academies Trust, said half term would have been an ideal opportunity to offer vaccinations against coronavirus to teachers of all mainstream schools.

The call comes after he and Sir John Townsley, chief executive of the Trust, had been lobbying behind the scenes about the roll out of vaccinations for staff in special educational settings.

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Coun Gruen said: "It does not make sense to me. The Prime Minister wants to roll out kids coming back to school from March 8. With more confidence and foresight, they could have used half term to vaccinate teachers.

Coun Peter Gruen who is also chair of the GORSE Academies Trust.Coun Peter Gruen who is also chair of the GORSE Academies Trust.
Coun Peter Gruen who is also chair of the GORSE Academies Trust.

"The programme is now ahead of itself and very successful. Nobody has asked for it to interfere with the top four groups but if you want the children to come back, what better signal to send than to say by that time all teachers will have been offered the vaccine? It would be a deal breaker and take that argument (about whether it is safe) away."

Scientists have also said that vaccines "are doing the job".

Prof Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said "everything's moving in the right direction" when it comes to the impact of vaccines on the pandemic.

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His comments were echoed by Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and a key figure in ensuring the UK went into lockdown last March, who said that while it was still "early days", a figure of two-thirds efficacy from a single dose of a vaccine was "not too far off".

The vaccine.The vaccine.
The vaccine.

Public Health England (PHE) is due to publish data shortly which shows the effectiveness of the current vaccination programme.

Earlier this week, Coun Gruen's arguments for all staff in specialist school settings to be offered the jab were heard.

Leeds City Council staff working in the city's specialist inclusive learning centres (SILCS) with children with special educational needs and disabilities had been vaccinated some time ago, but, Coun Gruen argued to senior colleagues in the local NHS and Public Health team that there were other frontline school staff in very similar positions with the same daily challenges who should have been vaccinated at the same time.

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He was referring to the special SEND facility at the Rainbow base at Richmond Hill Academy and the Alternative Provision at the Stephen Longfellow Academy which are also part of the GORSE Trust.

Coun Gruen added: "It does not matter whether it is local authority or academy setting, the challenges day in, day out are exactly the same. The public health team has now agreed to extend the vaccine. I am glad, a lot of staff will feel more confident about their own contributions and safety in these settings."

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