90 days from today is Tue, 20 April 2021
6 January 2021
Devon and Cornwall Police Federation has written to the area’s MPs calling on the Government to prioritise policing for the Covid-19 vaccination - to ensure officers can keep themselves, their families and the public safe.
Currently more 230 Devon and Cornwall Police officers are off work with Covid-19 or having to self-isolate. This is on top of more than 150 police staff colleagues off for virus related reasons and the other officers and staff who are off work for other sickness reasons.
In his letter to the areas 18 MPs, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chairman Andy Berry said that if officers are not given a level of priority for the vaccine then, with sickness levels continuing to rise, the operational effectiveness of the force could come into question.
And - as the country enters a third national lockdown - public safety could be at risk.
“I absolutely understand the need to medically prioritise the elderly and vulnerable with vaccinations,” Andy said, “but equally it must be a national priority to ensure that the police force remains effective, particularly now as we see the new COVID variant rampaging across the country.
“Many officers across Devon and Cornwall do not have the option of working from home, or within a Covid secure office.
“They are out every day engaging with the public; they have to enter people’s houses and other public places to do their job.
“They often have to get up very close to some people which can be due to them being a victim, witness, offender or a vulnerable person needing our help.”
Whilst “frontline health and social care workers” are second in the Government’s published priority list for the vaccine roll-out, police officers do not feature at all on the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Andy added: “My members do not always have the choice to keep distant, and this puts them at risk of infection.
“It’s not just their own health officers have to worry about either. While they may be fit and healthy and unaffected by infection, officers will all have loved ones and will not want to take the virus home.
“The police are the emergency service of last resort and if we are not there then the public are at risk. Despite repeated pleas and lobbying we are not hearing anything from Prime Minister Boris Johnson or the Government on this.
“So we are calling on the two county’s MPs – the majority of whom are Conservative - to do their best to convince the Government on this issue. We must protect our protectors, their families and as a result protect the public.
“The public expects police officers to put themselves in harm’s way and I believe that it is only fair to expect that these same frontline officers get prioritised for vaccination – it’s only fair and should just be part of the deal.”
According to the Government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation “does not advise further prioritisation by occupation during the first phase of the [Vaccination] programme.”
It adds: “Occupational prioritisation could form part of a second phase of the programme, which would include healthy individuals from 16 years of age up to 50 years of age, subject to consideration of the latest data on vaccine safety and effectiveness.”