12 February 2021
Frontline police officers and staff should at the very least be among those on a daily reserve list for any spare vaccines that would otherwise go to waste, the Police Federation’s Welsh lead has argued.
While calling for frontline workers to be offered any spare vaccines at the end of each day, Mark Bleasdale also reiterated calls for police officers and staff to be prioritised in the roll-out programme for the Covid jabs.
And he urged the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisation, which decides the order in which people will receive the jab, to reconsider its stance.
“The frustration level among frontline officers is high. This is because they are not being given any priority in the first phase of the roll-out of the jabs. But this has now been compounded by the fact that we are hearing of a wastage rate of ‘only one per cent’ which, based on 600,000 first dose vaccinations being administered, is still 6,000 doses that we firmly believe could have been given to frontline police officers and staff as forces have the resilience and support to be able to get people to centres, quickly and efficiently and in an organised manner at short notice,” Mark explains.
“We believe that 5,000 doses would in fact deal with all frontline officers and staff in Wales. But in addition, the simple maths of prioritising police officers in Wales for a fortnight would delay the overall programme by just two hours. So a similar programme with fire and rescue would delay the programme by one hour over the whole programme.
“This is based on 35,000 vaccinations being administered a day, for an average of 10 hours. So, if 3,500 are being delivered every hour and you ‘delay’ 7,000 vaccines to the list they would accommodate the police service. In reality, we are suggesting this could be spread out over a two-week period for practicality purposes.
“Now that the majority of people in the most vulnerable groups have been offered the vaccination, I do believe that there should be some consideration given to where other frontline workers should sit in the priority order but allowing them access to unused vaccines at the end of each day would seem to me to be a perfectly reasonable solution.
“We are aware that in some areas, reserve lists made up of members of the public are already in operation.Yet day in, day out, police officers have been on the frontline during the pandemic, serving their communities, carrying out their normal duties, responding to calls for assistance and helping uphold the lockdown restrictions. Due to the nature of policing, they cannot always socially distance and they are therefore at increased risk of contracting the virus. They fear taking it back to their loved ones and also have concerns that they could be passing on the virus to others as they go from job to job. We need to see them being prioritised in the vaccination programme.”
Last week, the four branches of the Police Federation in Wales wrote an open letter to the First Minister urging him to do more to ensure frontline officers and staff were prioritised for the jab.
Earlier this year, a petition calling for officers to be vaccinated was signed by more than 11,000 people, triggering a debate in the Senedd.
Mark added: “We understand the clinically vulnerable and frontline staff in the NHS and care homes had to be vaccinated first but now that those groups have been offered the vaccine I think some thought needs to be given to prioritising other groups who are left vulnerable to this virus because of their jobs. These people are helping serve and protect their communities and the Governments should, in turn, ensure they are protected too.”