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ASTI says vaccine meeting with public health experts and minister was 'unsatisfactory'

The decision to overhaul the vaccine plan has sparked anger from teachers who expected to be vaccinated sooner.

THE ASTI TEACHERS’ union has described a meeting with public health experts and the Minister for Education Norma Foley yesterday on the new plan for the vaccination process as “unsatisfactory”.

The decision has provoked anger from the likes of gardaí and teachers, who had expected to receive vaccines at an earlier stage in the programme. 

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said the meeting yesterday did not allay their concerns about the new plan, according to the union president Anne Piggott. 

She told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne programme this morning that she did not know if their case had been listened to, adding “it doesn’t bode well with teachers”. 

She asked why it was okay for teachers to go into a crowded class room while someone working at home can get vaccinated before a teacher.

Piggott said the union also had concerns about pregnant teachers and older teachers returning to the classrooms this month.

Piggott questioned why the authorities could not get a list of workers in schools or garda stations and prioritise them in the programme.

She urged the minister and the Taoiseach to do what they can to resolve the matter. 

Yesterday’s meeting was held to “explain the science behind the decision”, said one source, stating that it was not about changing the minds of the public health experts.

During the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, Education Minister Norma Foley said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) should explain the changes to prioritisation to teachers and other groups that won’t get priority for the vaccine.

While it has been questioned why a minister who sits at Cabinet would need such clarification, having signed off on the new plan, sources state that the minister was not informed of the full extent of the changes.

It is believed that the changes to the vaccine programme were brought to Cabinet in an ‘under the arm’ memo from the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, with Foley not knowing what was contained in the new vaccine roll out plan. 

Sources state the minister has made numerous representations to NIAC on behalf of teachers to ensure they are vaccinated as soon as possible.

This week, both the Tánaiste and Taoiseach have defended the vaccine plan overhaul. 

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil yesterday that the decision was made on public health advice from doctors and scientists. 

He said the Opposition was constantly calling on the government to listen to the experts, stating during Leaders’ Questions today that this is what the government is doing in this case.

After the most vulnerable and people over 70 have been inoculated, the roll out will be based on age groups, and not occupations as previously planned, he said.

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