Closed petition Prioritise special school staff in Covid 19 vaccinations.

The unique requirements of working with children with additional needs means that social distancing and effective use of PPE is virtually impossible. Vaccinating special school staff will also offer protection to the children and their families.

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In addition, there will be some difficulties in administration of testing amongst many SEN children for a variety of reasons. Special schools will be unable to rely on testing as a way of ensuring school is covid free, as well as being unable to always understand when a child is unwell due to communication difficulties. Government currently expects SEN schools to remain open but should understand that the staff working in these environments are at considerable risk and should be prioritised.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 March 2021

We are working hard to ensure everyone who has been clinically prioritised to receive a vaccine will have access to a vaccine as soon as possible.

Read the response in full

The NHS has been working alongside its health and social care partners to ensure the vaccine can be administered safely and effectively as part of the largest vaccination programme undertaken in its history.

The government and the NHS are working hard to ensure everyone who is clinically prioritised to receive a vaccine will have access to a vaccine as soon as possible. Over 24.4 million people across the UK have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and over 1.6 million people have received their second dose. There are now over 2700 sites across the UK already offering vaccines to those at risk by age and clinical priority. The network will continue to expand and evolve as we progress the deployment in the months ahead.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is the independent medical and scientific expert body which advises the UK Government on prioritisation for all vaccines. The committee’s membership is made up of practising clinicians and individuals from academia who have considered and continue to consider the impact of Covid-19 and population prioritisation as new data emerges.

For phase one of the vaccine roll-out, the underlying principles at the forefront of the advice by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation are; to reduce mortality, to protect the health and social care systems, and to save lives. Given the current epidemiological situation in the UK, all evidence indicates that the best option for preventing mortality in the initial phase of the programme is to directly protect persons most at risk. Having identified age as being the biggest determining factor to increased mortality, vaccinations have been prioritised to care home residents and staff and those over 80, followed by health and social care workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and clinical risk factors.

In line with the JCVI’s advice, special education staff will not be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccination. There are currently no plans to deviate from the JCVI’s advice on prioritisation. There are very few cases where children and young people are considered Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV). Frontline social care workers will be eligible for vaccination under Phase one of the programme where they are involved in providing direct care closely and regularly to those patients, in a health or social care setting. The Local Authority Director of Adult Social Services should have ultimate responsibility for identifying eligible Social Care Workers, underlined by the principle aim of achieving high rates of vaccination amongst frontline social care workers who work closely and regularly with those who are clinically vulnerable to COVID.

In addition, if a special school staff member is identified as being in one of the other at-risk cohorts, they will be contacted by the NHS at the appropriate time based on JCVI advice.

The NHS has now started to vaccinate the next set of cohorts (JCVI cohorts 5 to 9), with the goal of offering everyone who is most at risk, because they are over 50 years of age or have certain underlying health conditions, a first dose of the vaccine by 15 April. The Government aims to offer everyone aged 18 and over their first dose by 31 July.

We thank the special school staff for all the incredible work they have been undertaking throughout the pandemic, and we are working hard to ensure everyone who has been clinically prioritised to receive a vaccine will have access to a vaccine as soon as possible.

Department of Health and Social Care

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/566217)

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Original Government response

We are working hard to ensure everyone who has been clinically prioritised to receive a vaccine will have access to a vaccine as soon as possible.

The NHS has been working alongside its health and social care partners to ensure the vaccine can be administered safely and effectively as part of the largest vaccination programme undertaken in its history.

The government and the NHS are working hard to ensure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by mid-February. Over 6.8 million people across the UK have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly half a million have received their second dose. There are now over 2700 sites across the UK already offering vaccines to those at risk by age and clinical priority. The network will continue to expand and evolve as we progress the deployment in the months ahead. We will expand the programme so all adults can be vaccinated by the autumn.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is the independent medical and scientific expert body which advises the UK Government on prioritisation for all vaccines. The committee’s membership is made up of practising clinicians and individuals from academia who have considered and continue to consider the impact of Covid-19 and population prioritisation as new data emerges.

For phase one of the vaccine roll-out, the underlying principles at the forefront of the advice by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation are; to reduce mortality, to protect the health and social care systems, and to save lives. Given the current epidemiological situation in the UK, all evidence indicates that the best option for preventing mortality in the initial phase of the programme is to directly protect persons most at risk. Having identified age as being the biggest determining factor to increased mortality, vaccinations have been prioritised to care home residents and staff and those over 80, followed by health and social care workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and clinical risk factors.

In line with JCVI recommendations, individuals who regularly work with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals or those who have underlying health conditions, should receive the vaccine in line with social care workers. The Local Authority Director of Adult Social Services should have ultimate responsibility for identifying eligible Social Care Workers, underlined by the principle aim of achieving high rates of vaccination amongst frontline social care workers who work closely and regularly with those who are clinically vulnerable to COVID. In addition, if a special school staff member is identified as being in one of the other at-risk cohorts, they will be contacted by the NHS at the appropriate time based on JCVI advice. It is estimated that when phase one concludes, estimated to be Spring 2021 at the earliest, twenty-five million people will have been offered the Covid-19 vaccine.

The UK has a very successful record delivering vaccination programmes, but this is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history. We have an ambitious timetable. By 15 February we aim to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI):

• all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
• all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
• all those 75 years of age and over
• all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

We thank the special school staff for all the incredible work they have been undertaking throughout the pandemic, and we are working hard to ensure everyone who has been clinically prioritised to receive a vaccine will have access to a vaccine as soon as possible.

Department of Health and Social Care

This response was given on 1 February 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.