6 January 2021
Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe is supporting a plea from the Federation’s national chair for police officers to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Steve was commenting after John Apter wrote to Vaughan Gething, the Welsh minister for health and social services, asking him to reconsider a decision not to make police officers a priority group of workers in the jab roll-out programme.
“Each and every day police officers are putting their health at risk as they go about their duties, serving the public and, added to this, they risk passing on the virus to their families or other people they come into contact with while at work,” says Steve.
“I think it is important, especially when you consider the number of times people are spitting or coughing at officers while claiming to have coronavirus, for police officers to be prioritised in the programme to administer the new vaccine.”
Mark Bleasdale, Welsh lead for the Federation, has also supported the national Federation’s intervention.
Mark said: “As it stands, the majority of police officers will sit in the population group under the age of 50 and, therefore, will not be given any priority as the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out.
“While we fully respect the need to ensure that the country’s most vulnerable people, along with frontline health workers and care home staff should be the first in line to get the jab, I fully support the national Federation chair in his plea for police officers to be given some priority.”
In the letter, John explains that police officers are more likely to be off sick with the virus, with them having to deal with the general public on a daily basis, as well as supporting fellow emergency services.
“In reality, in Wales, we are asking that the frontline officers and staff within the police service are considered for some priority and those numbers are relatively small compared with those two million people in the first nine priority categories. Without it, I have genuine concerns that the resilience of the police service across Wales will be negatively impacted upon and forces will struggle to deal with demands as the number of officers reporting sick grows,” he writes.
“I therefore ask that you re-consider the issue. I understand from my Welsh colleagues that chief constables in Wales may even have capacity to issue the vaccinations within their forces themselves as they all have occupational health units and can manage the logistics of it.”
Mark said there are 7,500 police officers in Wales and they have remained on the frontline throughout the pandemic, serving and protecting the public, while putting their own and their families’ health at risk.
“Our officers are called out to houses and situations where Covid-19 might be present, exposing them to the virus frequently but also meaning that they could pass on the virus, unknowingly as they go from job to job carrying out their duties and responding to the public” he said, “Officers need to be vaccinated as soon as is practical to protect their health, that of the public they serve and also the resilience of the police service.”
The national chair’s letter follows the launch of a petition calling for police officers to be given priority during the jab roll-out. The petition was created by the father of a police officer who contracted coronavirus before passing it onto his heavily pregnant wife.
To spark a debate in the Senedd, the petition needs to be signed by 10,000 people and has so far reached almost 7,900 signatures.