Federation accuses government of ‘deep betrayal’ over lack of action on vaccine

The chairs of all 43 branches of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) have accused the Government of betraying police officers by failing to ensure they are prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Feb 9, 2021
By Tony Thompson

They have issued an open letter to the Government and the Welsh Assembly in the wake of disappointing comments by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday (February 8), in which he was unable to offer any guarantee that police officers would be immunised in the first wave or even beyond that.

PFEW national chair John Apter said: “Police officers feel betrayed by the lack of action from Government. The warm words and platitudes we have had to date are simply not enough. Officers are risking their lives on the front line of this pandemic – they are in daily contact with vulnerable people – and must now be protected without delay. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty by the English and Welsh governments.”

The letter, signed by all 43 Federation chairs, reads: “Police officers feel betrayed by the lack of action from the governments of England and Wales to protect them from exposure to this deadly virus.

“At the daily press briefing on Monday, the Health Secretary made clear that officers will not be included in the first phase of the Covid vaccine roll out. He could not even offer a guarantee beyond that, only that frontline officers will be ‘considered’ for vaccination in the next phase. This is not only unacceptable to our members it is also a dereliction of both governments’ duty.

“It shows that warm words and platitudes mean very little from government. Guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation states that ‘frontline health and social care workers at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment, are considered of higher priority for vaccination than those at lower risk’.

“The risks presented to our members show that this guidance applies to them. The nature of policing means our members are not always able to mitigate the risk of contracting and spreading this deadly virus.

“They often have to get up close and personal in many situations, which means the risk is ever present. One in three officers have reported being threatened by somebody claiming to have Covid.

“The level of incidents of people weaponising the virus – by coughing or spitting at them – has increased considerably during the pandemic. On behalf of government, police officers are putting their lives on the line every day and run a very real risk of becoming infected and exposing colleagues, family members as well as the public. This seriously threatens the resilience of the police service if officers are off sick or required to isolate, taking them away from their duties.

“This is not about police officers jumping the queue and never has been. It is about the duty of care that government has to protect those who protect society. Thanks to the success and speed of the vaccination programme we know it would take less than a day to vaccinate the entire police service in England and Wales if the political will is there to do it.

“Police officers have done everything asked of them, now it is time for the Government to step up and protect those who have been on the front line throughout this pandemic. Anything less would be a deep betrayal and will not be forgiven or forgotten.”

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