University and College Union accuses PM of ‘trying to pin blame on students for not yet taking up a vaccine they haven’t been prioritised to receive’ after reports he is considering measure
It comes amid reports the government is considering introducing such rules for students, as well as only letting those who have received two doses return to university halls.
Education minister Vicky Ford refused to rule the measures out on Monday, saying the government had to “consider everything”.
But the University and College Union has criticised the idea.
Jo Grady, the general secretary, said students should be prioritised for vaccinations to ensure as many as possible have been given the opportunity to get jabbed before the start of the next academic year.
“But making vaccinations compulsory as a condition to access their education is wrong and would be hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated, and international students,”Het sy bygevoeg.
“Sadly, this looks and smells like a prime minister trying to pin the blame on students for not yet taking up a vaccine they haven’t been prioritised to receive.”
Ms Grady urged the prime minister to work with the NHS and universities to “enable and sensitively encourage student vaccination” instead of restorting to mandatory vaccination rules.
The government has been approached for comment.
Die tye reported on Monday that Boris Johnson had suggested compulsory jabs for students to attend lectures and live in halls in order to help drive up the rates of young people taking up the vaccine.
The prime minister made the suggestion, subject to medical exemptions, during a virtual meeting from his isolation at Chequers, according to the newspaper.
It added Mr Johnson was “raging” over comparatively low jab take-up in younger age groups and was considering the move in an attempt to boost vaccination rates.
Maandag, Downing Street did not deny reports that students would need to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures.
“You have heard what the PM has said before, specifically that the pandemic is not over,” a No 10 spokesperson said. “We are still looking at the scope for vaccination certifications.”
Vicky Ford, the minister for children, was repeatedly asked about the potential policy for students on Monday morning.
Although she initially answered “no” when asked about the plans on Sky News, before stressing the need to prioritise education, she did not take the opportunity to rule the policy out later on.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Obviously, I can’t comment on things that haven’t been announced. But one does need to look at every practicality to make sure that we can get students back safely and make sure that we can continue to prioritise education.”
Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson for health, said it was “completely unacceptable” the government was considering these plans.
“While it is crucial every adult who can get vaccinated does get the jab, attempting to withhold face-to-face education from students until they do is crossing a line,” the MP added.
Additional reporting by Press Association