Teachers accused of 'abusing' system to get vaccine ahead of others

Teachers have been accused of "abusing" the vaccine system after many are alleged to have signed up for a jab despite not being invited.

In a letter sent to headteachers in Rochdale the council says it has learned of school staff sharing a link to book vaccination appointments intended for NHS workers only.

Many have been able to successfully book an appointment and have now been vaccinated, despite not being in the priority groups chosen by the government, it says.

The council adds that "for every vaccine given to someone outside the priority groups" they are risking "our most vulnerable residents being delayed in receiving it."

It cannot be right that individuals use unauthorised routes when to do so denies others with entitlement. The question that I would ask is how would any of us feel if, by one of our colleagues accessing a vaccination, our mother or father was denied.

Rochdale Borough Council

Responding to the allegations Sir Richard Leese, Greater Manchester's health lead, promised he will be "pressing" to "take the appropriate action when the time comes", as it becomes apparent who has skipped the queue.

Mayor Andy Burnham also said he supported Rochdale Borough Council's actions, adding, "People should not be going before they are called to go because they are taking a slot away from those in greater need."



The letter, first seen by Manchester's The Mill, is written by Gail Hopper, the Director of Children’s Services at the council.

In it, she writes it would be "disastrous" for the borough if vaccines were stopped by NHS England due to the abuse.

She also raises concerns around the "challenging target" of vaccinating those in the top four priority groups by 15 February - and adds any jabs given to those outside these groups would hinder the process even more.

The council says, due to the breach, it will now require those attending their appointment to present "ID and a letter that matches that ID from their employer", adding that anyone who cannot do so will refused entry.

It also clarified that it was not aware of any teachers within the borough "having used the link inappropriately".

A council spokesman said: "This letter was about a wider concern over the vaccination booking link being shared inappropriately, which has happened in many areas of the country.

"The letter is not about a problem at a specific school but an attempt to prevent abuse of the system."

The government has said it will look at whether to prioritise vaccinating teachers. Credit: PA Images

But, sympathising with teachers, the letter adds, "I recognise that some colleagues feel unhappy that schools based staff have not been prioritised by government in the first two groups.

"I fully sympathise with that and if the choice was ours, schools staff would have been in the first group. We continue to lobby government about this issue."

Are you aware of this happening where you live? Get in touch - granada.reports@itv.com



THE LETTER IN FULL

Dear head teacher,

I am sorry to have to write to you all about this matter and hope that you will understand my purpose for doing so.

It has come to our attention that a booking link sent to NHS employees to book a vaccination slot at one of the identified hospital sites, has been inappropriately shared. This was not the intention when the non-transferable link was provided and should not have happened. Not surprisingly it is now spreading widely.

This testing site in the hospitals listed are for NHS patients, staff and social care staff only. This protects community sites for the older age and high risk groups. We know that by it being shared, some school based staff (and others), who are not part of the priority groups identified by government, have booked appointments. Indeed some been vaccinated. Others are now planning to do the same.

Our concern is we are fully committed, to ensuring vaccinations are directed to priority groups first. Rochdale has a tight target to vaccinate all care home residents and staff, residents over 75 years and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable residents, along with NHS and social care staff by 15th February – if sufficient vaccine supplies reach us. This is a really challenging target. For every vaccine given to someone outside the priority groups, the risk is increased of our most vulnerable residents being delayed in receiving it.

The publicity of this happening would be very damaging for the borough. It will also increase the risk that NHSE cancels future supplies until it can be assured that the borough follows the required process. This would be disastrous, given the success so far in delivering up to 1200 daily vaccinations.

I recognise that some colleagues feel unhappy that schools based staff have not been prioritised by government in the first two groups. I fully sympathise with that and if the choice was ours, schools staff would have been in the first group. We continue to lobby government about this issue. However, it cannot be right that individuals use unauthorised routes when to do so denies others with entitlement. The question that I would ask is how would any of us feel if, by one of our colleagues accessing a vaccination, our mother or father was denied.

As I’m sure you’ll recognise, we have to take action to prevent this activity. With immediate effect health and social care staff will be required to attend their booked appointment with ID and a letter that matches that ID from their employer / local authority. We have requested that anyone that cannot provide this be refused access.

We ask that you advise any colleagues who have accessed the link and plan to or have already booked an appointment not to do so. We would rather avoid the embarrassment of them not gaining admission to the vaccination site. Please ask anyone with an appointment booked to cancel it quickly, so it can be offered to those in priority groups. Could you also impress on staff the importance of not passing on this link to any others inside or outside the borough. Some may have received it from contacts in other boroughs as this link is shared with Bury, Oldham and Salford. Any such sharing undermines the efforts to ensure vaccinations are directed to priority groups first.

We continue to work locally to identify how we can ensure that all schools colleagues can be invited for vaccination and will try to do this as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your assistance in addressing this difficult issue.

Yours sincerely,

Gail Hopper

Director of Children’s Services

Rochdale Borough Council