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vaccine roll-out Confusion as teachers and SNAs in special schools got vaccinated yesterday


Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

The Covid-19 vaccine roll out was thrown into further confusion today after it emerged teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) from a number of special schools in the Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East were vaccinated yesterday.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said today it should not have happened.

The move has caused bewilderment because the teachers and SNAs are no prioritised as a group for vaccination and will be expected to wait until it reaches their individual age cohort.

The staff were vaccinated at the Aviva Stadium, in Dublin, despite a decision by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) to remove them from a special priority ranking.

Teachers unions are warning they will take action up to and including industrial action as a result of the overhaul of the list.

In response trade union Fórsa has called on the Government to clarify revelations that special needs assistants (SNAs) working in special schools in Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and south-east Dublin received Covid-19 vaccinations.

The union said the development was welcome, and said it wanted to see a nationwide rollout, from the health minister’s constituency, to special school-based SNAs nationwide.

Last week, the union asked the Government to review its decision to remove SNAs from the Covid-19 vaccine priority list and to include them under ‘category nine’ of its revised vaccine schedule, which includes people aged 16-64 who work in crowded settings.

In a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, the union’s head of education, Andy Pike, said that SNAs work in crowded settings where social distancing is not possible.

“There are few other groups outside health and social care who work on a consistent basis providing intimate care without the ability to maintain social distancing.

"In special schools, healthcare staff like nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists have all been vaccinated, whilst the SNAs who work alongside them have not,” he said.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle said reports that the “HSE has forged ahead and is now vaccinating teachers in special schools” had been their demand all along.

“We need that to continue and to be guaranteed to all workers in all our special schools,” he said.

The teachers who were vaccinated were first contacted about vaccination appointments last Wednesday, a day after the Government announced a change to the vaccination priority listing, according to RTÉ News.

It is said that on Wednesday a number of special schools in the HSE's CHO6 area, which covers Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East, were contacted and asked top rovide lists of staff for vaccination by the following afternoon.

On Friday staff at the schools, including teachers and SNAs, received appointments to attend for vaccination at the Aviva stadium yesterday.

A school principal said the HSE informed him all special schools in the CH06 area were being contacted with the vaccine offer and around 50 teachers ad SNAs were innoculated yesterday.

Asked about the incident today Mr Donnelly said :" I did hear it and I contacted the HSE straight away to get a very quick update, obviously I’ll get a more detailed one.

"But what I’ve been told so far is that the CHO had special need assistants on their reserve list.

"Now that’s not something that’s meant to happen.

"That’s not something that’s happening nationally, and it’s not in line with the protocols. My understanding is that the CHO was trying to do the right thing, trying to make sure that there was a reserve list in place, however this reserve list is not the right way to do it."

Asked if this is the right way to do a reserve list he said :"They shouldn’t - that’s exactly what I’m saying... that this is not the way to do a reserve list."

Asked if the schools were in his constituency he replied: "I have no idea, I’ve literally just heard about it reported on RTÉ, and I’ve asked the HSE for a detailed report but obviously I wanted to share something quickly, so that’s what I’ve found out so far."

The HSE said "to avoid any wastage of the vaccine the reserve list was used at the Aviva Vaccination Centre yesterday".

It said "some people were called who were identified as those within Cohort 4 and a number of people working in special schools in the area were also called."

Meanwhile new figures released by the Department of Health on projected supplies of vaccine coming here in April, May and June said there will be 3.9 million doses.

This is higher than the projected 3.6 million. June should see the largest amount of vaccines with 1.75 million doses due.

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