Police leaders have accused the government of “a deep and damaging betrayal” after it was announced frontline officers would not be given priority in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine programme.
Announcing plans for Phase 2 of the roll out, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said it would be concentrating on age rather than occupation in order to avoid slowing down the system.
The decision means people aged 40-49 will be the next in line to get a vaccine rather than people in certain vulnerable occupations such as police officers and teachers.
The JCVI said prioritising people by occupation could make things more complex and therefore slow down the overall vaccine rollout.
But the announcement was greeted with anger among the policing fraternity with representatives warning ministers that it was a betrayal that would not be forgotten.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation said: “This announcement shows a complete lack of understanding about policing this pandemic and is an utter betrayal of police officers.
“My colleagues have been on the frontline since the first national lockdown last March, risking infection and even death to keep the public safe.
“Together with others across policing, we have never said police officers should jump the queue but should be prioritised.
“It’s right that the most vulnerable and health and care workers were vaccinated; but what about police officers who cannot mitigate against the risks of contracting and spreading this deadly virus? Yet the calls to prioritise policing have been ignored.”
A total of 29 police officers across the country have died after contracting coronavirus, including seven in the Metropolitan Police.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, described the decision as "shocking" and "absurd".
Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has supported calls for frontline officers to be prioritised for vaccination adding that the police “cannot fight crime or protect the vulnerable by working at home”.
Mr Apter said an increasing number of officers were calling in sick or having to self isolate.
He went on: “Giving police officers the vaccine would not only protect them and their families but also help prevent the spread of this virus.
“We are sick of warm words and no action by our political leaders who have demanded so much from policing during this pandemic. We will now explore every possible avenue open to us to protect our members from this deadly virus and this complacent government.”
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: “We are disappointed that frontline police officers and staff have not been prioritised in the next stage of the vaccine rollout.
"Those on the frontline interact with members of the public on a daily basis and due to the nature of our work, social distancing is not always possible, and many have been subject to disgraceful assaults involving coughing and spitting. This increases the risk of transmission to officers as well as to the public.
“We have always supported the decision to prioritise the most vulnerable in the vaccine rollout but asked that frontline officers and staff should then be considered as a priority group.
"We accept that the JCVI has concluded that the best way of protecting those who potentially have higher risk of exposure to the virus, like police officers, is for them to receive vaccines in line with their age-group, however, we remain disappointed for our officers and staff. Forces will be communicating with their officers and staff so they understand what to expect in receiving their vaccination.”