PARIS - The United Nations agency for education, UNESCO, on Monday called on governments to give teachers priority access to the new COVID-19 vaccines and be treated like "frontline" workers.
The call came as the United States, the country worst hit by the virus, kickstarted the biggest vaccination drive in its history by giving the jab to a nurse in New York.
"As we see positive developments regarding vaccination we believe that teachers and education support personnel must be considered a priority group," UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said in a joint video message with the head of the Education International (EI) teachers' organization, David Edwards.
Azoulay and Edwards said when schools and other education facilities were closed to prevent the spread of the virus, "teachers and support personnel remained on the frontline".
As classes moved online they "reinvented the way we teach, we learn," they said, adding that when schools reopened, teachers returned "courageously" to the classroom.
Stressing that schools are "irreplaceable" Paris-based UNESCO and Brussels-based EI called for teachers to be among the first in line to be inoculated.
The US aims to immunize 20 million people by the end of 2020. It launched the program after issuing emergency approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is already in use in Britain.