Teachers and Special Needs Assistants working in a number of special schools in the Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East areas received vaccinations yesterday from the HSE.

The news comes as the country's three teacher unions demanded a reversal of last week's decision that removed vaccination priority from teachers and SNAs and agreed to take action up to and including industrial action in pursuit of a reversal of the policy.

The teachers were first contacted about vaccination appointments last Wednesday, a day after the Government announced a change to the vaccination roll-out schedule.

The change meant teachers and SNAs would no longer be prioritised for vaccination and was greeted with outcry and shock from their trade unions.

RTÉ News has learned that last Wednesday a number of special schools in the CHO6 HSE area, which covers Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East, were contacted and asked to supply lists of staff for vaccination by the following afternoon.

On Thursday, the schools supplied the information after requesting permission from staff to share their details.

On Friday, staff at the schools, including teachers and SNAs, received appointments to attend for vaccination at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. 

A school principal has told RTÉ News that the HSE told him that all special schools in the CH06 area were being contacted with a view to offering all staff vaccinations.

He said that around 50 teachers and SNAs were among staff at the school who received their first jabs at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the HSE informed him of the move.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, he said this is "not in line with protocols" and should not be happening.

"This is not the way to do a reserve list," he said.

The minister said he was informed that the staff in charge were trying to do the right thing and ensure there was a reserve list was in place.

He said more facts needed to be established but that he understood no-one was trying to do anything wrong.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation has welcomed the news. The union said the work of the HSE in "forging ahead" with the vaccination of teachers in special schools should continue and should now be guaranteed to all workers in all special schools.

The union said that this had been their demand all along.

The development has angered teachers and SNAs working in schools in other regions who have not been offered vaccinations.

Meanwhile, the HSE has withdrawn an earlier statement it made, which said that the teachers and SNAs had been part of a reserve list created to prevent wastage.

The HSE has since said that the group was not part of any reserve list, after RTÉ News pointed out that they received appointments on Friday for vaccination that took place yesterday.

In a statement, the HSE said: "In the Aviva Stadium this week staff of special schools including teachers, special needs assistants and a small number of support staff were vaccinated in a belief that they fitted into the category of frontline health workers (cohort 2).

"These staff work with children with disabilities, many of whom are in the very high or high-risk categories, and some support these people in residential and respite settings.

"However, they should not have been vaccinated as part of cohort 2, though the decisions to do so were made in good faith. We apologise for this error."

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The SNA trade union Fórsa has called on the Government to clarify the revelations, saying it wants to see a nationwide vaccine rollout "from the health minister's constituency to special school-based SNAs nationawide".

Last week the union asked the Government to review its decision to remove SNAs from the vaccine priority list and to include them under 'category nine’ of its revised vaccine schedule, which includes people aged 16-64 who work in crowded settings.

Additional reporting Fergal Bowers