Teachers in special schools across Cornwall and those across the early years sector should be prioritised for a vaccine as soon as possible, says the woman responsible for children and public health in the county.

As schools in Cornwall prepare to go back on March 8, some school staff are concerned about entering a school environment where they are in daily contact with classes of children exposing them to Covid.

At a Cornwall Council media briefing today Sally Hawken, lead member for children, wellbeing and public health, was asked by the Packet whether teaching and school staff should be prioritised for the vaccine before they return to school.

"I think there is all sorts of compelling arguments about all sorts of occupations," she said, "So we’ve had people making that case for the police and supermarket workers so it really important that we are all in a place now where we are actually identifying clearly what an essential worker is.

"We all know that those of us who are able to sit at home really owe a great debt of gratitude to all those people who have been out on the front line and putting themselves at risk.

"However, the specific criteria for the vaccine is allocated in a very specific way centrally, not by us, and that is what our NHS colleagues are using and that is determined around risk of death, risk of hospitalisation from that categorisation seeing the incorporation of new cohorts, new elements.

"They have kept that rigour round risk of death and that is quite crucial as the means by which we are reducing hospitalisations.

"I completely understand teacher’s concerns, I completely understand that schools are not places that are unsafe for children.

"I would like to see our teachers in special schools and those across the early years sector being prioritised as soon as humanly possible. I am fairly realistic about the understanding of the science as to why these priorities exist and why we are trying to reduce death through the priorities that exist so that is the way forward at the moment.

"Thankfully we are going very, very rapidly through these groups and hopefully we will see a place in the not to distant future where everybody of working age is vaccinated."