Call for police to be coronavirus vaccine 'priority'
- Credit: Jason Bye
The boss of Norfolk Police Federation has called for officers to be added to the priority list for coronavirus vaccinations.
Andy Symonds, chairman of the federation, said police had gone over and above in helping people feel safe during the pandemic.
But they do not feature at all on the government's list of eligible groups set to be immunised during the first phase of the vaccination programme.
Around 90 of Norfolk's frontline officers are currently off work for coronavirus-related reasons.
A decision has not yet been announced this week on whether officers will be added to the priority list, despite growing pressure.
And the federation, which promotes the welfare and efficiency of Norfolk Constabulary, believes a change is essential to keep workers, their families and the public safe.
“For 10 months, my colleagues have been working flat-out trying to deal with the pandemic and all the challenges this brings," said Mr Symonds.
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"They have been on the frontline putting themselves and their families at increased risk of infection, and sadly, on occasions, officers have brought the virus back from work into their family.
“With the new variant of the virus spreading at an exponential rate, we need to ensure the very people who have been protecting our communities are themselves given protection in the form of a vaccine."
While everybody is eligible for a vaccine, the first to be offered a jab are those living and working in care homes for older residents, and frontline health and social care workers.
The priority list - developed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - puts over-80s next in the queue, before progressing through older age groups, adults on the NHS shielding list and people under 65 with long-term conditions.
While emphasising that frontline health workers and society's most vulnerable should be prioritised, Mr Symonds said police should not be far behind.
"As a police service we deploy officers on mutual aid into other counties," he added. "We know many people are asymptomatic, so we have the potential to become spreaders of this virus across county borders.
“Therefore, it is incumbent on the government to ensure police officers are given an appropriate priority."