Derbyshire Police Federation

Government accused of betraying officers on Covid jabs

26 February 2021

The Government has been accused of betraying officers who have put their health, and that of their families, on the line while seeking to protect the communities they serve during the pandemic.

Tony Wetton, chair of Derbyshire Police Federation, criticised ministers after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), today announced that Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out programme would be based around age with no professions being prioritised.

The first stage of the Covid vaccine programme saw care home residents and workers at the head of the queue followed by the over 80s and health and social workers before working through seven more age categories ending with those aged 50 to 55.

Stage 2, the JCVI has today confirmed, will mean the jab is offered to three new age brackets – 40 to 49, 30 to 39 and then 18 to 29.

“The Police Federation has been campaigning for officers to be given some kind of priority as the roll-out programme has continued,” says Tony.

“We absolutely never wanted to leapfrog over the most vulnerable groups.  We have fully supported our NHS colleagues with the incredible progress they have made in protecting huge numbers of those most at risk of serious illness and death.  

“But we do feel very strongly that the very nature of policing, including the risks that frontline officers face because they cannot always socially distance, means they should be prioritised and vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Tony added: “We all need police officers at work in sufficient numbers to do their job of keeping communities safe.  It’s also really important that those officers are not inadvertently spreading the virus to those they are trying to help.  This means it’s for the good of the public we serve that officers are protected.  There are strong arguments from other professions that they need protection and we understand that.  The difference is that police officers cannot do their jobs from six feet away like those other professions.

“It seems ridiculous to me that, despite the fact that I can and do work safely at home or in the office, I will be getting the jab before the majority of my frontline colleagues simply because I am 53-years-old.  I am at very little risk of catching the virus compared to my colleagues who are up-close and personal, even hands-on, with some of the most difficult members of society, even facing the additional risk posed by those who cough or spit at officers while claiming to have Covid.

“Police officers feel that the Government has betrayed them. It is hard not to feel bitterly disappointed that the recently much improved relationship between the police and Government appears to have been just warm but empty words on their side. 

“My colleagues need protection and that has been ignored.  We have heard politicians, including the Home Secretary, make all the right noises about officers getting the jab but they are, it seems, just noises. We need them to follow through on what they say.  And not in a few weeks. 

“The Government should immediately review the decision not to treat policing as a special priority, like it did quite rightly with health and social care workers facing the risk of dealing with someone infected with the virus without the option of doing it from two metres.  Frontline police officers need protecting NOW.”

National Federation chair John Apter called the JCVI decision  ‘a deep and damaging betrayal that will not be forgotten’.

He said it showed a complete lack of understanding about policing the pandemic.

“Together with others across policing, we have never said police officers should jump the queue but should be prioritised,” John explained.

“It’s right that the most vulnerable and health and care workers were vaccinated but what about police officers who cannot mitigate against the risks of contracting and spreading this deadly virus? Yet the calls to prioritise policing have been ignored.

“The very nature of policing is unpredictable and means my colleagues often cannot socially distance. They are going into people’s homes, going into hospitals, and having to get up close and personal when helping people or making an arrest.”

The national chair also pointed out that a number officers had died after contracting the virus while others are reporting sick or self-isolating, affecting forces’ operational resilience.

He added: “Giving police officers the vaccine would not only protect them and their families but also help prevent the spread of this virus.

“We are sick of warm words and no action by our political leaders who have demanded so much from policing during this pandemic. We will now explore every possible avenue open to us to protect our members from this deadly virus and this complacent Government.”

 

 

 

 

 

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