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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of Stormont’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has given backing to calls for staff in special schools in Northern Ireland to receive the Covid vaccine as soon as possible.

Urging the Heath Minister Robin Swann to raise the matter with UK Ministers, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme has made a brilliant start and it is a huge relief to know that thanks to the efforts of our Trust staff and local GP practices thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society are receiving lifesaving protection on a daily basis.

Whilst primary and post-primary schools have been delivering remote learning under the current restrictions, special schools have remained open. Staff in these schools are often required to provide personal and medical care for pupils in addition to regular teaching responsibilities. This brings them into close contact and heightens the risk of exposure to the virus. For this reason, I believe there is a compelling argument for treating these employees on the same basis as other frontline workers who currently have priority access to the vaccine.

We should remember that the vaccines currently being rolled-out are not suitable for children. Many pupils with special educational needs and disabilities are clinically extremely vulnerable. Vaccinating their teachers and school staff could therefore provide added protection as well as enhance confidence among parents who are currently reluctant to send their child to school.

I would urge the Health Minister to listen carefully to these concerns and ensure that the needs of SEN children and their staff are represented in UK-wide discussions on the roll-out of the vaccination programme moving forward. ''