Vaccine access clarified


On 21 January, the UK Government’s Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its provisional recommendations for the coronavirus immunisation programme.

Noting that many funeral directors spend considerable time in care homes and hospitals, it recommended the UK Government include frontline funeral operatives, mortuary technicians and embalmers on the priority occupation immunisation programme.

The JCVI recommendation leaves uncertainty in Scotland and Wales.

While Jeremy Balfour MSP, co-chair of the Scottish Parliament’s funerals and bereavement cross-party group, tabled a written question on the matter, the Scottish Government failed to provide a substantive response before the deadline, prompting Mr Balfour to question the reason for the delay.

Likewise, in Wales, Huw Irranca-Davies MS (Labour) tabled a question asking the Welsh Government to “add frontline funeral workers” to the priority list for vaccinations. Health Minister Vaughan Gething is yet to provide an answer.

While opposition parties have welcomed the announcement on vaccinations for funeral directors in England, disputes remain over funeral directors’ access to PPE and the assessment of risk to the profession.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman has rejected calls from Labour MPs to add funeral directors to the list of social care businesses in England eligible for free personal protective equipment (PPE) until March 2021, stating that funeral directors should procure PPE through their “usual supply routes”.

Similarly, Health Minister Jo Churchill revealed that SAGE has not made a specific assessment on the risk of coronavirus infection within the funeral sector.

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