15 February 2021
Federation Chairman: Government cannot justify decision to put officers towards the back of the vaccination queue
The Government cannot justify its decision to push police officers towards the back of the vaccination queue, Leicestershire Police Federation has said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week confirmed officers would only be in line for the anti-COVID jab after priority groups 1-9.
That's despite Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Home Secretary Priti Patel telling officers to 'get ready' for the jab and that their position in the line was under review.
Leicestershire Police Federation Chairman Adam Commons says he cannot understand the Government's position and that it has 'no argument' against making officers more of a priority.
Just last week the force confirmed that more fines for COVID breaches have been handed out in January than in the whole of last year, highlighting the high-risk frontline role officers continue to perform.
"We're dealing with more COVID breaches than ever and yet police officers won't be vaccinated until after groups 1-9 have had their jabs, depending on their age," Adam told BBC Radio Leicester.
"It's a fairly simple argument. My colleagues can't socially distance themselves on the jobs they go to. The very nature of police officers' role means we can't always do it from two metres away.
"Officers have all been wearing PPE since this all started, the goggles, the masks, everything they can to try and protect themselves but we can't always socially distance, and they can come off when we have to restrain people.
"It's too much risk, and I don't understand why the Government doesn't think we deserve to be on the priority list given everything we are trying to do to keep people safe and to enforce these regulations.
"We're going into houses not knowing whether people have it, one in three people are asymptomatic and don't know it themselves… it's just astounding."
The news has added yet more stress and worry for officers as they try and keep the public, most of whom are backing calls to get officers jabbed, safe during the pandemic.
"We've always said we should concentrate on vulnerable and then review where we [police officers] sit in that," Adam added.
"I don't think the Government has an argument for why police officers are not being prioritised and I don't know who's making the decisions because between the three Ministers they don't seem to know – are they worried about a public backlash?
"The public back us on this, and people can't understand why we've not been given a place."
"It's not just their own health officers have to worry about, at the end of their shifts they go home to their families not knowing whether they could be about to pass on the deadly virus.
"My colleagues are rushing into situations where people have got it or could have it, and then they're going home to their families, you could almost have a super spreader effect as a police officer by just doing your job and not having that protection."
Incredibly officers are still being spat at and coughed on too.
"My colleagues are anxious about being coughed at or spat on I've been spat on," Adam said.
"I've been spat on, and it's absolutely disgusting - having their masks pulled away from their faces while someone coughs on you saying you've got COVID, and spitting at you is another level of worry.
"Colleagues are stripping down their uniforms at the end of the shift, bagging it up, changing clothes, getting home, showering to protect their families all the while wondering if the person who spat at them has COVID and waiting to see if they get symptoms.
"It's just adding another layer of stress to what is already a stressful job."
Adam says the force's senior leaders have backed the Federation's calls to get officers higher up the vaccination list.
"The Chief Constable has been fantastic, he's contacted the Home Secretary and has publicly backed his officers so has our PCC," he said.
"But it's not just in Leicestershire, other Chiefs including Cressida Dick at the Met has come out and said she doesn't understand it either.
"I just don't get it."