Covid jabs: officers should be prioritised

1 March 2021

The Government has a moral duty to protect police officers and their families yet is hiding behind the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) when denying officers priority access to the Covid vaccine, according to Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe.

The JCVI confirmed on Friday that when Phase 1 of the jab roll-out programme, which will see all over 50s offered the vaccination, has been completed Phase 2 will involve three stages covering those aged 40 to 49, 30 to 39 and 18 to 29.

The age-based roll-out will mean that no group of workers will be prioritised as the JCVI believes this could slow down the vaccine programme.

“Police officers, along with other frontline workers, have been fighting this pandemic for nearly a year now. But once again they’ve been overlooked. Once again it’s a kick in the teeth,” says Steve.

“Government ministers have praised the police for working so hard to continue to provide a service and protect communities – even the Home Secretary said officers should be prioritised for the vaccine. But they have failed to back up those words with actions and protect the protectors. They have turned their backs on us instead.

“The Police Federation has campaigned for officers to be prioritised because their unique of role often makes it impossible for them to protect themselves as they would want to. They can’t socially distance when arresting someone and they’re mixing with numerous people on a daily basis, sometimes having to go into their homes.

“All they are asking for is the Government to help protect them by offering them the vaccination. They accept the need for the vulnerable, the elderly, frontline NHS and care staff to be vaccinated first but these priority groups have had access to the jab while police officers, as well as teachers and other groups of workers, are still being denied any kind of priority. I don’t understand it.”

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

He said the announcement 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.”