The Government has a moral duty to protect police officers and their families and yet is hiding behind the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) when denying police officers priority access to the Covid vaccine.
That is the view of Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom.
The JCVI has this morning confirmed that once Phase 1 of the jab roll-out programme, through which all over 50s will be offered the vaccination, has been completed Phase 2 will also be based around age with three stages covering those aged 40 to 49, 30 to 39 and 18 to 29.
This means no group of workers will be prioritised since the JCVI believes this could slow down the vaccine programme.
“This is beyond disappointing,” says Liz, “Everyone in police understood the need for the most elderly and vulnerable in our communities to be at the front of the queue for the vaccination followed by frontline NHS and care workers.
“But as the roll-out programme has continued, and particularly with the vaccines being given at a faster rate than was originally expected, we all believed that police officers, and a number of other professions that have been on the frontline of the nation’s response to the pandemic, would be given some kind of priority.
“It seemed that a number of politicians agreed with us. The Home Secretary was even reported to have said that she had told forces to prepare for the roll-out but it would seem that words are cheap, particularly when they are not backed by action.
“Police officers are in a particularly vulnerable position. They cannot always maintain a two metre distance, they have to get close to people to do their job and they often go from job to job during their shift, potential exposing them and their families to the virus but also risking them passing the virus to others.
“The Government should recognise this and ensure they are prioritised. As it stands, with the age profile in policing, it could be several more months before many officers are offered the jab.”
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.”