Should we bring forward school staff to the front of the vaccination queue?
Clearly, if our priority is re-opening schools, it follows that this priority should be reflected in the vaccination programme.
The counter argument is more nuanced. We believe that schools are safe; they are not vectors of infection; that school staff are no more exposed to the possibility of infection than other occupations. The Schools are closed only because of the impact on community activity generated by children coming and going, which is at variance with the requirement to ‘stay at home’ (regular readers of this column will know that I have profound difficulties with this aspect of the policy, but I simply state the case as made by the Government).
Given all this, it would be quite wrong to fast-track hundreds on thousands of school staff at the expense of the most vulnerable citizens.
I’ve said it before: this is war!
The first principle of war is the selection and maintenance of the aim.
The selected aim is to save lives by preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed by hospital admissions. The key must therefore, be to vaccinate first those who -were they to catch the virus- be most likely to end up in hospital.
Once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, by all means then prioritise school staff thereafter.
My question to the PM last Wednesday and his answer sum up the matter precisely.
Sir Desmond Swayne To lift lockdown, will my right hon. Friend focus exclusively on the progress of vaccinations of those who are most likely to be hospitalised if infected? Mission creep beyond hospitalisations would inevitably lead to the diminution of our sense of urgency to lift the restrictions – wouldn’t it?
The Prime Minister My right hon. Friend is completely right and he gets to the heart of the problem in the pretend policy that has been announced by the Opposition party. If we were to interfere with the JCVI 1 to 9 list, which is intended to target those most vulnerable and those most at risk of dying or of hospitalisation, we would, of course, interpolate it with other people appointed by politicians, taking vaccines away from the more vulnerable groups and, as he has rightly said, delay our ability to move forward out of lockdown. He is spot on.