Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms Foley said that it had “never been in the gift” of the Department of Education or of any politician to make a promise on the vaccination programme.
The vaccination list was compiled by National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and was “100 per cent independent of Government.”
It is simply the science that is available to us now.
The Minister pointed out that “the science” last December had put the education sector in the “first third” of those to be vaccinated. It had subsequently emerged that the chief concern was that age was the strongest predictor.
The science was very clear, she added. This was not a value judgement on any profession. “It is simply the science that is available to us now.”
When asked about the pledge that had been made to teachers prior to the return to school earlier this year, Ms Foley said that her department had engaged with the Department of Health and had accepted at every stage that the actions of NIAC were independent and based on science.
“At every step we indicated that we would accept and adopt the science when it was presented to us.”
NIAC had been very clear that age was the basis of the greatest vulnerability and that the older should be catered for first. Dealing with Covid was a learning curve, she said.
The Minister said she accepted that teachers were disappointed in the change in the vaccine schedule, but she felt many accepted the science and that the priority must be the most vulnerable.
The INTO, TUI and ASTI have joined forces and will today ask their members to unite in their demand to prioritised for vaccination.
In a joint statement, the teaching unions have said they will consider industrial action if their demands for prioritisation are not met.