Government accused of betraying officers over Covid jabs

26 February 2021

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 them priority access to the Covid vaccine, according to Dyfed Powys Police Federation chair Gareth Jones.

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 in the 40 to 49, 30 to 39 and 18 to 29 age groups.

As a result, no group of workers will be prioritised since the JCVI believes this could slow down the vaccine programme.

“To me, the Government has a moral duty to protect frontline police officers and staff who, throughout this pandemic, have done so much to protect their communities,” says Gareth.

“We have heard the Home Secretary talk about the need for police officers, and a number of other groups of workers, to be prioritised but it would seem that it is convenient to hide behind the JCVI.

“Everyone in the police service, and I am sure other frontline services, appreciated that the most elderly and vulnerable in our communities should be offered the jab first and then frontline NHS and care workers.

“But as the roll-out has progressed, and particularly since vaccines are being  given at a faster rate than was originally expected, we felt frontline police officers and staff would be given some priority.”

Gareth added: “Policing is simply not a function that you can carry out at a two-metre distance at all times, the very nature of the role puts officers and frontline staff at risk as they go from job to job during the extent of their shift.

“They are vulnerable and they deserve to be given the protection offered by the jab sooner rather than later – to protect them, to protect their families but also to protect the public they come into contact with.”

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.”