9 February 2021
Health secretary Matt Hancock has revealed that police officers will only be considered for prioritisation for the Covid jab after the initial roll-out programme has been completed.
This means that officers will currently only get called for the vaccination according to their age.
But all 43 branches of the Police Federation, along with national chair John Apter, have now released an open letter to the Governments of England and Wales accusing them of a dereliction of duty for failing to make vaccinating frontline officers a priority.
“The two Governments have relied on the police service to be on the frontline throughout the pandemic, helping explain the current Government restrictions to the public and enforcing the guidelines in place to protect our communities and the NHS,” says Tony Wetton, chair of Derbyshire Police Federation.
“Police officers have risen to the challenge posed by the pandemic, playing a critical role in the nation’s response to this crisis. They have adapted to rapidly changing restrictions and they have given their all. But, while they have been doing this, they have been risking their own health and also putting their own families at risk since they could so easily pick up the virus and unwittingly take it back home with them.
“We all fully accept that the most vulnerable people in our communities need to be at the very head of the queue with the roll-out of jabs along with frontline NHS staff and those working in care homes but I do think it’s time for police officers, and other frontline workers, to be considered in some kind of priority order.
“Since I am 53, I will be called for the vaccination under the current programme before many of my younger colleagues who are working on the frontline, despite the fact that I am working at home and can control my exposure to the virus. Frontline officers do not have that luxury but will not be protected for months. I am sure that cannot be right.”
The open letter, responding to Mr Hancock’s comments at last night’s press briefing, points out: “This is not only unacceptable to our members it is also a dereliction of both Governments’ duty. It shows that warm words and platitudes mean very little from Government.”
Guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states that:
Frontline health and social care workers at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment, are considered of higher priority for vaccination than those at lower risk.
The letter continues: “The risks presented to our members show that this guidance applies to them. The nature of policing means our members are not always able to mitigate the risk of contracting and spreading this deadly virus. They often have to get up close and personal in many situations, which means the risk is ever present.
“One in three officers have reported being threatened by somebody claiming to have Covid. The level of incidents of people weaponising the virus – by coughing or spitting at them – has increased considerably during the pandemic. On behalf of Government, police officers are putting their lives on the line every day and run a very real risk of becoming infected and exposing colleagues, family members as well the public.
“This seriously threatens the resilience of the police service if officers are off sick or required to isolate, taking them away from their duties.
“This is not about police officers jumping the queue and never has been. It is about the duty of care that Government has to protect those who protect society. Thanks to the success and speed of the vaccination programme we know it would take less than a day to vaccinate the entire police service in England and Wales if the political will is there to do it.
“Police officers have done everything asked of them during this pandemic. Now it is time for Government to step up and protect those who have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic and continue to do so. Anything less would be a deep betrayal and will not be forgiven or forgotten.”