HAMPSHIRE 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.
Hampshire Police Federation Secretary Garry Smith said it’s important that those who are out protecting communities and safeguarding the vulnerable are themselves properly protected from the virus.
Garry said: “Whilst the public and non-essential workers are told to stay at home, our members are still reporting for duty and still being deployed to all manner of calls.
“They are still going into homes, work spaces where the risk is great and with the new variant ever present in Hampshire, there is increased worry and anxiety amongst our members.
“So providing police officers with a level of priority for the vaccine will help allay the fears of officers and their families as well as help to reassure the public that officers entering their homes, caring for people and forced into the personal space of another will be vaccinated and safe and therefore of little risk to them.”
Garry added: “Like our partners in the NHS and in care settings we are on the frontline, on the coal face 24hours a day and its only right that we are vaccinated to safeguard the public as soon as possible.”
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.
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.”