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4 January 2021
Norfolk Police Federation is calling on the Government to add police officers to the priority Covid-19 vaccination list to ensure officers can keep themselves, their families and the public safe.
This week the Government failed to announce a decision on whether police officers would be added to the priority list for the vaccine, despite weeks of high-level lobbying over the issue.
Norfolk Police Federation Chairman Andy Symonds said officers have gone over and above in helping to keep people safe during the coronavirus crisis – and yet they do not feature anywhere on the list of people to be vaccinated.
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 said: “For the last 10 months of this year my colleagues here in Norfolk and across the country have been working flat out trying to deal with the pandemic and all the challenges this brings. They have been on the front line putting themselves and their families at increased risk of infection and sadly on occasions some officers have brought the virus back from work into their family.
“With the new variant of the virus spreading at an exponential rate across the county of Norfolk and all over the country, we need to ensure that the very people who have been protecting and policing our communities are themselves given protection in the form of the vaccine.
“We cannot be in a position that we do not have enough police officers to continue this imperative work because they either have the virus or are required to self-isolate.”
Andy added: “We need to remember that as a police service we deploy officers on mutual aid into other counties across the county. We know that many people are a-symptomatic so we have the potential to become spreaders of this virus across county borders.
“Therefore it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that police officers are given an appropriate priority for the vaccination. However, this must be once the most vulnerable in society and those working on the frontline with our NHS have been vaccinated.
“This will then allow the police service to have the capability to deliver our vital service through the even more challenging period which is now upon us.”
The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has also been calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ‘do the right thing’ and ensure police officers receive priority access to COVID vaccines.
John Apter has now written directly to NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt requesting that new and urgent representations are made directly to Government over the issue so rank and file officers are ‘given the protection they deserve.’
The National Chair said: “It’s time for the Prime Minister to do the right thing for police officers in the thick of this pandemic. I am calling on him to back my colleagues in their time of need as more are absent from work after contracting the virus or having to self-isolate.
“We’ve lobbied the NPCC who have raised this directly with Government. Despite positive responses no formal decision has been made, and we now need immediate Government action.
That’s why the Prime Minister must make a decision - does he support police officers being prioritised for the COVID vaccine or not?
“This is certainly not about jumping the queue in front of the most vulnerable members of society or those on the NHS frontline. It’s about ensuring policing is resilient enough to cope with the demands of the pandemic and that my colleagues can continue to support the public during these exceptional times.”
In his letter, Mr Apter stressed PFEW’s full support for the lobbying and wrote that he valued NPCC’s help and understanding on the ‘vitally important issue.’
However, he added: “If we expect police officers to continue to police in the way that we do then it’s essential they are given the protection they deserve.
“Getting hands on and working in a close contact with members of the public is often unavoidable. This creates a risk, not only for our members and the public they are dealing with, but also for the officers’ families.
“I formally request that the NPCC makes representations to ensure that police officers are prioritised as part of the COVID vaccine programme.”
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.”