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Teachers seek a spot near head of queue for vaccine

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Queensland teachers push to be recognised as a priority workforce group in the national rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine alongside other frontline workers.

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Queensland Teachers’ Union president Cresta Richardson said it was disappointing teachers were not considered as a workforce group in the vaccination schedule when last year teachers and principals were considered essential workers.

But the federal health department says the three priority groups identified for the rollout are those at increased risk of exposure — those who have an increased risk, relative to others, of developing severe disease or outcomes from COVID 19; and those working in services critical to societal functioning.

It comes as the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Queensland begins on Monday, with the first 100 Pfizer jabs to be administered on the Gold Coast.

Vaccine phases

The first phase includes up to 678,000 quarantine and border workers, frontline health care workers, aged care and disability care staff and residents with up to 1.4 million doses in phase 1a, under the National Rollout Strategy.

Elderly adults 70 or over, other health care workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people older than 55, younger adults with an underlying medical condition, and critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, emergency services and meat processing, are in the second phase of up to 6,139,000 people and 14.8 million doses.

The next phase, 2a, would see adults aged 50 and older, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-54, and other critical and high-risk workers before phase 2b which would see the balance of the general population of up to 6,643,000 vaccinated with up to 16 million doses.

‘Teachers considered essential’

Richardson said the union was advocating teachers be given more priority for the vaccine, given they were considered essential frontline workers during the height of the pandemic in 2020, and critical to keeping schools open for essential workers children.

“It’s important for health officers and officials to see us as a priority workforce group and for teachers and school leaders,” she said.

“Our view is that we should be seen as a priority, as a workforce group, within the vaccination rollout list, alongside other frontline workers.”

The pandemic prompted the state government to close schools to students, for up to six weeks during April and May, except for offspring of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Other pupils in Prep, Years 1,11 and 12 were required to learn remotely for four weeks, while those in Years 2-10 were home schooling for four weeks.

“Last year in the lockdown, schools and people in them were considered critical to the functioning of society,” Ms Ricardson said.

Richardson said the union would continue consulting with government about moving teachers and school leaders up on the priority list.

A federal health department spokesperson said the government’s COVID-19 vaccine roadmap was established based on the advice of the Australian technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

“Any change in priority populations, would be based on the advice of independent medical experts such as the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation,” the spokesperson said.

– ABC / Antonia O’Flaherty

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