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Call for Suffolk police to be amongst first to receive vaccine amid national fears officers could become 'superspreaders'

Police officers should be amongst the first to receive the Covid vaccine, according to a police federation.

Suffolk Police Federation has called on the Government to add police officers to the priority Covid-19 vaccination list to ensure officers 'can remain on duty to keep people safe'.

It follows similar calls from other police federations around the country including Hampshire, Yorkshire and Leicestershire, and despite weeks of high-level lobbying over the issue.

Suffolk Police. Picture by Mark Westley
Suffolk Police. Picture by Mark Westley

The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, Ken Marsh, has warned that police officers could become 'superspreaders' if they aren’t vaccinated against coronavirus.

Suffolk Police Federation Secretary Ben Hudson, said: “Throughout this year police officers in Suffolk and across the country have put in a herculean effort to keep the country safe and the pandemic under control. They have been on the front line putting themselves and their families at increased risk of infection.

“With the new variant of the virus spreading even faster than before across the country, we need to ensure that those who our communities look to to prevent and detect crime and safeguard the vulnerable are themselves protected so that they can continue this vital work.

“The Government must ensure that police officers are given an appropriate priority for vaccination, once the most vulnerable in society and those working on the frontline with our NHS have been vaccinated.

This will ensure that sufficient numbers of officers remain fit and able to be on duty to hold the thin blue line.

Whilst frontline health and social care workers are second in the Government’s published priority list for the vaccine roll-out, along with those aged 80 and over, police officers do not feature at all on the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

First in line are elderly care home residents and their carers.

The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), John Apter, has also been calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ‘do the right thing’ and ensure police officers receive priority access to COVID vaccines.

He 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.’

Mr Apter, 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.”

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