Teacher unions call for vaccine meeting with Taoiseach

The ASTI, TUI and INTO have written to An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, seeking a meeting with Government representatives to focus on the rollout of vaccinations to our members.

The three teacher unions and education partners met with Department of Education officials and public health advisors last week (Thursday, 15 April) regarding the current public-health landscape in schools. While this meeting was useful, it did not adequately address the three teacher unions’ concerns regarding recent revisions to the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.

We have since written to An Taoiseach to request engagement with relevant officials from Roinn An Taoisigh and other relevant departments to get clarity on timeframes for the vaccination of our members under the current provisional vaccine allocation plan.

The three teacher unions also wish to discuss several anomalies in the rollout of the vaccination programme that have arisen, which have already impacted on educational settings.

In particular, the three unions wish to discuss anomalies relating to vaccination of staff members in some special schools. While a number of staff members in special schools have received at least one dose of vaccine, many more staff members within the total of approximately 4,000 staff have not been offered vaccines. This has led to a situation where some teachers working in special education settings are vaccinated and some are not.

A joint emergency motion passed by all three unions at their Easter Conferences specifically called for early vaccination within the overall cohort of education staff for: pregnant teachers, those in higher risk categories and particularly those who work in special schools, special classes and home school community liaison teachers.

It is the position of all three unions that frontline workers in crowded settings should be prioritised for vaccination once the elderly and vulnerable have been protected. We note that some public servants were added to a ‘reserve list’ for vaccination in recent weeks and believe that those who work in special education settings should now be prioritised for early vaccination.

Our letter to An Taoiseach outlines our eagerness to work with Government to progress the rollout of vaccines so that all teachers can be assured they will be fully vaccinated at the earliest possible opportunity.

As the Government contemplates further changes to vaccine rollout plans – including the possibility of extending the period of time between doses, which may impact vaccination coverage in schools come September – it is imperative that unions meet with Government to examine these issues in detail.

Teachers received a written commitment from Government on 1 February that they would be within the top one third of the population to be vaccinated. Government’s failure to clarify when teachers will now be offered vaccines is causing a lot of concern in school communities.

A copy of the letter is available to view here.