Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told police officers in no uncertain terms that they will have to wait their turn to receive the Covid-19 vaccine – and that they will not be prioritised.
Mr Hancock directly addressed a question from a police officer – Samantha from Lancashire – during the regular Downing Street briefing, who asked “when are frontline police officers likely to receive the vaccine?”
Despite lobbying from the Police Federation, Chief Police Officers, the Met Commissioner and the College of Policing over police officers needing to have a level of priority for the vaccine to keep themselves, their families and the public safe, Mr Hancock replied that officers will not be prioritised until after groups 1-9, as deemed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
So they will not be eligible for the vaccine until after the first 32 million people in the country have received it.
Steve James, Chairman of Gloucestershire Police Federation, said: “The Health Secretary’s confirmation that police officers will not be prioritised for vaccination is another kick in the teeth to the thousands of officers who are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis.
“We have already seen a number of officers die from COVID-19 and some 46% nationally report having been infected, and every day officers still continue to put themselves at risk of exposure in order to keep the public safe.
“To say that despite this, officers do not deserve this extra measure of protection that the vaccine will offer is something that officers will find disgraceful and hard to fathom.”
Steve added: “It is further disappointing that despite everybody in policing having raised this issue for weeks, that it took a police officer questioning the Health Secretary on live national TV to finally get an answer to this request.
“Despite this lack of Government support we know that forces around the country have managed to get a small number of officers vaccinated by fortunate use of unused or spare doses. This is the right decision and we support it fully.
“Unfortunately that hadn’t been the case here in Gloucestershire as we have repeatedly been told by our local NHS partners that there have been no spare or unused doses. That they have been able to rollout an unprecedented vaccination program at 100% efficiency is clearly and impressive achievement.”
In a pre-prepared statement last night – so Mr Hancock would have been aware of the question coming – police officer Samantha asked the Health Secretary: “When are frontline police officers likely to receive the vaccine? Like paramedics they have to go into many different houses a day and there is a high risk of either taking the virus home or passing it on to one of the many elderly or vulnerable people they come into contact with on a daily basis.”
Mr Hancock replied: “Thank you very much Samantha. A very important question and I want to thank police colleagues who are doing so much to protect us at this time, including making sure that the rules that we have on social distancing are enforced and I’m particularly grateful to the police for the work that they’re doing on expanding that enforcement.
“Directly answering your question, we have ensured, through the clinical advice that we’ve taken, that the vaccine rollout goes through those who are most at risk first. So any police officer who is aged over 50 will be part of the initial rollout through the current groups down to what I call the JCVI cohorts 1-9, from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations which advises us on the clinical basis for the order.
“After that we will then look at what order we go next and we’ll consider, for instance, questions of people who are in professions where you might have to be in contact with more people and the impact of the vaccine on transmission and make a decision and publicise it as soon as we’ve made that decision.
“No decision has yet been made in what order we’ll go after the JCVI cohorts 1-9 but we’re looking very closely, including at where police officers should be in that order.”