Teachers and police officers won’t be prioritised as next phase of COVID vaccinations revealed

Watch: Vaccinations to continue by age group not occupation

  • JCVI reveals priority list for the second phase of COVID vaccine rollout

  • After some calls for key workers to be given priority, advisory board says jabs should continue to be given by age rather than occupation

  • Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of JCVI, says this will "provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time”

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Key workers such as teachers and police officers won’t be prioritised in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

A recommendation issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on Friday said the government should carry on prioritising people by age rather than occupation as the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 deaths and hospital admissions.

It means priority will be given in the following order for phase two of the rollout:

  • people aged 40 to 49

  • people aged 30 to 39

  • people aged 18 to 29

Prof Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 chair for the JCVI, said this will "provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time”.

Key figures outside and inside government had been pushing for teachers and police officers to be given priority.

Downing Street later defended the recommendation from the JCVI to prioritise age over occupation.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The JCVI have advised that even in the under 50s, age remains the biggest single factor determining mortality and hospitalisations, so it is therefore right that we accept their advice to continue to prioritise by age as this will protect the most people and have the biggest impact on reducing NHS pressures.

“They are also clear that giving priority to certain professions would not be as effective or as fast in reducing deaths and hospitalisations as protection of those at higher risk of serious disease.

“Prioritisation by age will also protect individuals working in jobs with potentially higher risk of exposure with the most vulnerable in those occupations vaccinated first.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had called for all teachers to be vaccinated this month, while home secretary Priti Patel wanted all police officers to get a jab in the second phase.

The JCVI said the government should carry on prioritising people by age rather than occupation. (Getty)
The JCVI said the government should carry on prioritising people by age rather than occupation. (Getty)

However, the JCVI said on Friday that targeting occupational groups could slow down the rollout as well as leave some vulnerable people at higher risk for longer.

Prof Lim said: “Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from COVID-19.

“The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.

“The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.”

While the government doesn’t have to follow the JCVI advice, the chances of Boris Johnson going against it are almost zero.

Downing Street has been following the JCVI priority list for the first phase of the rollout, which includes over-50s, care home residents, clinically extremely vulnerable people, over-16s with underlying health conditions, and frontline health and social care workers.

The government also adopted updated advice from the JCVI earlier this week after it recommended including all people on the GP's Learning Disability Register be added priority group six – the one currently being vaccinated.

Once most people in the top nine groups have received the first jab, the government will then move to the second phase.

Prof Lim, speaking at a press conference on Friday, said he couldn't give a date for when this is likely to start.

As of Wednesday, 18,691,835 people in the UK had received a first dose of the vaccine.

Read more: Revealed: The areas being left behind in the race to vaccinate the vulnerable

The government has committed to giving all people in the top nine groups the first dose of the vaccine by the middle of April and all adults by the end of July.

Labour's shadow education secretary Kate Green, meanwhile, said it was "extremely disappointing" teachers will not be prioritised as she responded to the JCVI announcement.

She tweeted: "If they're off sick students can't be in class. We must prioritise them to protect children's education."

John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, called the decision not to prioritise officers a “deep and damaging betrayal” which “will not be forgotten”.

Read more: UK COVID infections drop to a third of level seen at start of lockdown

He said: “They’re being spat at, coughed at, rolling around on the ground with people, working in hospital environments, going into people’s homes. They can’t mitigate the risk of the virus."

However, Dr Peter English, former chair of the British Medical Association's public health medicine committee, said: "The JCVI's decision... will no doubt be protested against by groups that perceive themselves at greater risk than others, but it has that great virtue of simplicity.

"Population and patient databases all include the date of birth, so it will be easy to invite people by age group, without any delays in setting this up, and with minimal risk of argument about whether somebody really is in the occupational category they claim.

"And, to reiterate: the strongest risk factor remains age."

Watch: How England will leave lockdown