The government will look “very carefully” at prioritising shop workers – as well as teachers and police officers – for COVID vaccines, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs.
The government and NHS are currently aiming to offer the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine to 15 million of the most vulnerable people by 15 February.
Live COVID updates as Britons warned over lockdown
These include older care home residents and staff, everyone over 70, all frontline NHS and care staff, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
The first groups to be prioritised for the vaccine were recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
And, as those most at-risk are inoculated over the coming weeks, the government is due to decide on who might be prioritised next under the second phase of the UK’s vaccination programme.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Conservative MP Andrew Percy urged Mr Hancock to “bear shop workers in mind” when setting out who will be next in line for a vaccine.
The health secretary replied: “I want to thank shop workers in essential shops who’ve got to be there for all of us, even in these difficult times when the virus is widely spread.
“We’ll be looking very carefully at those professions that will need to be prioritised in phase two of the prioritisation programme.
“We’ll look at, of course, teachers and police and others, but also we’ll look at shop workers and we’ll make those decisions based on the data.”
Responding to Mr Hancock’s remarks, Paddy Lillis, the general secretary of Usdaw – a trade union for shop workers – said: “Retail staff are working with the public every day and are not only suffering increased abuse, but are also deeply worried about catching COVID-19.
“That must be taken into account by the government when assessing risk levels and priority for vaccines and testing.
“We are calling for retail workers and delivery drivers to be prioritised, because they provide the essential service of keeping the nation fed.”
Subscribe to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
In its vaccine delivery plan, which was published on Monday, the government stated that “phase 2 of the roll-out may include further reduction in hospitalisation and targeted vaccination of those at high risk of exposure and/or those delivering key public services”.
So far, more than 2.6 million COVID vaccine jabs have been given to almost 2.3 million people.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged Mr Hancock on Tuesday to ensure frontline NHS staff receive a vaccination in the next two weeks, as he noted how thousands are currently off sick with COVID.
The health secretary replied in the Commons: “He is absolutely right to raise the challenges that the NHS is facing today.
“And it is very important that whilst the rollout of the vaccine is proceeding well, and we are on track to hit the targets that we have set, we must also stress to everybody the importance of following the rules which are in place in order to control this virus and reduce the pressures on the NHS, which are very considerable at this moment.”
Tuesday’s session of health questions in the House of Commons saw many of those MPs who were present in the chamber abide by the new directive to wear face coverings, except when speaking, to reduce the chance of infections.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “Staff and MPs are already strongly encouraged to wear face coverings when moving around the estate – these should also be worn in the chamber.”
Source: Read Full Article
Welsh independence warning: Labour says referendum ‘on table’ – Union ‘never this fragile’
Turkey and West climb down from brink of biggest diplomatic crisis
‘He put a tax on jobs!’ Seething Hartley-Brewer erupts at Sunak backer in vicious tax row
Georgia Election Official Avoids Ex-Klansman Amid Safety Concern
House Dems make last-ditch effort to extend eviction moratorium