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New figures show fewer than 20 percent of 135,783 officers have received a protective first dose. John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This horrible virus continues to claim many lives. And yet my colleagues are expected to carry out frontline policing roles, going hands on with the public, in many cases being spat at, coughed at and bitten by people who claim to carry the virus. Despite this, police officers have not been prioritised for the vaccine. We are angry and frustrated at that lack of protection. It feels like a betrayal by the Government.”
Despite praising the “tireless efforts” of the police the Government insists vulnerable groups would be vaccinated first.
Advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends jabs should continue to be given on age ranges rather than occupation.
More than half the UK’s adult population has now received the first dose with the entire adult population on course to be vaccinated against Covid by the end of July.
But only around 27,156 police in England and Wales have received the jab, a figure that has sparked fury at force headquarters across the country.
Olivia Pinkney, Hampshire Chief Constable, said: “I have spoken with every officer spat at or bitten. I still don’t have a decent answer to give these women and men for why they aren’t vaccinated despite such a brilliant UK vaccine rollout.”
Figures suggest the number of assaults on front-line officers has risen by more than one-fifth during lockdown.
Mounting concern at the increase in violent clashes – as witnessed at the so-called Kill The Bill protests in Bristol on Sunday night – comes as overstretched forces brace themselves for a flood of disorder when pubs reopen.
In just three weeks [April 12] they will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors who can meet in a group of up to six people from different households, sparking fears about alcohol-fuelled violence.
Martin Hewitt, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “We all know the consumption of alcohol leads to violent behaviour. Therefore we are planning as things are released and opened up we have a suitable policing response, we’re deploying in the right way and we’re keeping things under control.”
Mr Apter said: “The economy must get moving after such a long period of lockdown, but there is apprehension in policing. We are under significant pressure to juggle Covid-related incidents with other 999-calls. We continue to be vulnerable as long as so many of our officers are un-vaccinated.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “The Government is focused on saving lives and continues to follow the advice of the independent JCVI to vaccinate the most vulnerable first, based on age as the biggest factor determining mortality.
“We are grateful for the tireless efforts of all our key workers – including the police – at this difficult time. They are doing everything they can to keep us all safe and ensure vital services carry on.
“The vaccine rollout is continuing at pace with over half of all UK adults have received their first vaccination. We are on track to offer a first dose to all adults by the end of July.”
Comment by John Apter
While we all hope we are seeing the beginning of the end of this pandemic, the threat is far from over. This horrible virus continues to claim many lives.
And yet my colleagues are expected to carry out frontline policing roles, going hands-on with the public, in many cases being spat at, coughed at and bitten by people who claim to carry the virus. Despite this, police officers have not been prioritised for the vaccine.
We are angry and frustrated at that lack of protection. It feels like a betrayal by the Government.
Fewer than 20 percent of officers and police staff have been vaccinated to date. At the same time, they are still facing vile individuals who seek to weaponise the virus. The risk to police officers, in doing what they are expected to do is very real. Many have been struck down by this wicked and indiscriminate virus. We have lost a number of colleagues, while others are suffering from the effects of long Covid.
The increasing level of attacks on our emergency services during the past 12 months is a stain on our society, and recent CPS statistics show that assaults against blue lightworkers is the most common coronavirus-related crime. With pubs due to reopen next month the pressure will inevitably increase on policing.
The economy must get moving after such a long period of lockdown, but there is apprehension in policing. We are under significant pressure to juggle Covid-related incidents with other 999-calls. We continue to be vulnerable as long as so many of our officers are un-vaccinated.
What we need is a balanced and sensible commentary from the government as well as clear guidelines around the Covid rules to avoid confusion.
My colleagues are often in a no-win situation, damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I know we may not always get things right but despite this, we know that the vast majority of the public support their police officers, and for that I thank them. Their support really matters to the brave men and women who I am proud to represent.
John Apter is the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales
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