Teachers are omitted from a "preliminary" Covid-19 vaccine priority list that was highlighted in tonight's coronavirus TV briefing.
The news comes as it was announced today that Pfizer’s vaccine trial has proved more than 90 per cent effective.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said tonight he could not confirm that teachers would be among the categories of people who will receive a new vaccine first, despite calls from unions for them to be near the top of the list.
In tonight's TV briefing, Mr Johnson said the government would be led by guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the issue, while deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said people would be prioritised to receive the vaccine according to their age.
The JCVI's most recent list of priority groups, labelled as "interim guidance", includes workers from the NHS, care homes and social care, but not teachers.
Professor Van Tam said that 22,000 people had currently had the vaccine, and that "if we can get to a point where vaccines are beginning to be authorised for use in the UK, the next question is, ‘Well who are we going to give them to?’ And here again an independent body, the JCVI, will guide the government on the priorities."
He said that the JCVI's list of patients to prioritise was still preliminary, as the committee still needed to know the characteristics of each vaccine and their storage requirements, but that "what is very clear from the JCVI work to date is that by far and away, age is the biggest priority for patients who most need the vaccines and need to get those vaccines first if they are safe and effective.
"And so you can expect that the theme of increasing age being the highest priority to be a theme that stays with us as we go on this journey."
Mr Johnson was questioned over what this would mean for his plan to keep schools open, as teachers were not included in the JCVI's priority list.
A reporter asked: “You read out the list, Professor Van Tam, on the [people who are] priorities. You said they were preliminary but given the prime minister’s determination to keep schools and universities open, is it not a glaring [thing] missing from that list? Should there be teachers on that list?"
Mr Johnson said: “On your question about which categories of people get it [the vaccine], we will be guided very much by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. You’ve got to look at where the doses can be most appropriately distributed to protect people to save lives and to drive down the R and everything flows from that.”
The current provisional ranking of priority patients on the JCVI website is as follows:
- Older adults resident in a care home and care home workers.
- All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers.
- All those 75 years of age and over.
- All those 70 years of age and over.
- All those 65 years of age and over.
- High-risk adults under 65 years of age.
- Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age.
- All those 60 years of age and over.
- All those 55 years of age and over.
- All those 50 years of age and over.
- Rest of the population (priority to be determined).
Teachers' leaders have said school staff must be prioritised to receive the vaccine.
Today, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: "School staff do need to be among those at the top of the queue when it comes to receiving a Covid vaccine."
And Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "I think school staff should definitely be prioritised for the vaccine. We are already seeing that some schools are finding it increasingly difficult to stay fully open."
In May, a survey by Parentkind found that one in 10 parents would only want to send their children to school if staff had been vaccinated against Covid-19.