Chair hopeful as the Senedd prepares to debate officer vaccine priority

Gwent Police Federation’s chair is hopeful for change as the Senedd prepares to debate giving officers some priority in the vaccination roll-out programme.

The debate will be taking place next Wednesday (3 March), after a petition urging the Government to prioritise the Force gained 10,000 signatures. 

Gwent chair Steve Thorpe says he hopes that politicians will support officers being given the protection they have been calling for. 

“This has been a long time coming, so I’m pleased to hear that the Senedd is finally going to debate this issue,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, we all understand that the most vulnerable in our communities, as well as frontline health staff and those working in care homes, should be top of the list for vaccines.

“However, police officers should be prioritised too. Our staff sometimes find themselves in situations where Covid-19 is present, making them vulnerable to catching the virus.”

The petition was created by the father of a police officer who contracted coronavirus before passing it onto his heavily pregnant wife.

Graham Bishop explained that his twin grandchildren were born via emergency c-section a month early, after their mum contracted coronavirus from his police officer son.

“Our frontline staff not only put their own health at stake on a daily basis, but they are also putting their families and loved ones at risk too,” Steve said.

“It must not be forgotten that they are simply doing their job and protecting the public, it’s about time they were given some degree of protection in the form of the vaccine in return.”

It was recently confirmed by health secretary Matt Hancock, during a public coronavirus briefing, that officers will be vaccinated depending on their age.

This means that with most frontline officers being under the age of 50, they will not be given priority.

Steve disagrees with this stance: “The number of officers protecting the public on the frontline who, in reality, should get vaccine priority is relatively small compared to the two million people in the other nine categories set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“Not only will the vaccination help protect their health but it will also decrease the number of officers who are absent due to actually having the virus, or having been exposed to it.”

A number of Welsh politicians have already pledged to support the Federation’s campaign for police officer vaccine priority.

Their support came after the four Welsh Police Federations joined forces to send an open letter to the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, accusing him of reneging on his commitment to protect officers during the pandemic. They claimed he had treated them with contempt by refusing to raise them a priority group.

This was followed just days later by all 43 Federation branches across England and Wales sending another letter to the Governments in Cardiff and Westminster, condemning them for not protecting frontline police officers and staff.

The Police Federation’s Welsh lead, Mark Bleasdale, has also argued that if officers could not be given priority, then at the very least they should be among those on a daily reserve list for any spare vaccines.