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Staff in special schools who are supporting children with the most complex healthcare needs will be offered the Covid-19 vaccine.

This follows an agreement by the Ministers for Health and Education.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “We are currently vaccinating at pace the most ‘at risk' cohorts as advised by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). These are based on age and clinical vulnerability.

“Staff working in special schools are supporting children and young people who have the most complex healthcare needs and require support from across the health and education sectors.

“It is with this in mind that we have made the decision to offer the vaccine to those staff involved in the direct care of these children and young people. While we know that children are not at increased risk these are some of the most vulnerable young people in our society and by vaccinating the special school staff, we are protecting those children who may be at higher risk if exposed to Covid-19.”

Staff who are eligible will undertake regular healthcare duties with multiple children and young people, all of which mean they work in close proximity for prolonged periods of time providing a range of interventions, including personal and intimate care and invasive procedures.

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “Last week, we announced the introduction of weekly testing of pupils and staff in special schools. Today’s decision is a further and welcome step which I hope will help to ease the anxiety of parents and carers as well as staff working in special schools.

“My officials will work with the Department of Health to identify the group of staff who work in special educational settings and fulfil the necessary criteria and offer them the vaccination.”