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NPCC urges Department of Health to step in over unused vaccines

Martin Hewitt has urged the DH to formally enable officers to access unused COVID-19 jabs, saying it was "ridiculous" to waste them.

NPCC urges Department of Health to step in over unused vaccines

Date - 28th January 2021
By - Chris Smith
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NPCC lead Martin Hewitt has called on the Department of Health to set up a formal agreement so that officers dealing daily with people who have the virus could go to vaccination centres when people do not turn up for their jab.

He used a briefing to update on the COVID-19 pandemic to express his frustration on the failure of health officials to adapt.

Mr Hewitt told Police Oracle it was “ridiculous” that jabs were being binned.

Frustration is growing among officers because so far at least 22 police officers and staff have died after contracting coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said the figure is the total number of deaths “exclusively attributable to Covid-19” in all territorial forces in the UK.

The Metropolitan Police and several other forces are operating an informal protocol where the Pfizer vaccine is given to an officer that would otherwise be thrown away.

Mr Hewitt told Police Oracle: “This is not a matter for a police force to get into an arrangement. The actual delivery of vaccinations is done at a local level.”

He added: “It is a frustration to me that it is done differently in different parts of the country. I do think it is ridiculous that those vaccines should go to waste, bearing in mind there is that pressure from us to vaccinate.”

Police Chiefs and Federation leaders have been “at one” in arguing with both the Home Office and Department of Health to get officers vaccinated and Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster has gone on record as supporting giving vaccines to other recipients if they are going to be wasted. 

In comments aimed at the DH, Mr Hewitt said: “Police officers have a unique vulnerability in the job that they do. Anything that can be done to enhance that resistance, I would welcome. I hear what the First Minister in Northern Ireland has said. I would agree.”

The current position for policing has been that with vaccines scarce, the focus should be on protecting the most vulnerable to contracting the virus and dying as a result.

Mr Hewitt said negotiations had been going on to ensure frontline officers were be included in the next wave with other public sector workers.

He said he was “not going to get into a bidding war” but said officers should be “very much at the front of the queue”.

Those in operational roles would be a priority.

“We don’t ever do anything random. We have been looking at this. We will be doing this force by force. Each force will be looking at their own staff.”

He explained: “There is a body that has been pulled together to make those decisions. We feel there should be a prioritisation for police officers. It is important for all our public services to be as capable as they can be.

“Police have been out on the street doing their job throughout the pandemic. The simple fact of the matter is… you can’t do policing at 2 metres. In some cases you have to be very close to people with no way of assessing if they are positive.”

The fact that some health trusts are giving vaccines that would have been thrown away to non-priority groups has increased frustration at the lack of a formal arrangement,

A Northern Ireland health trust was revealed to have been offering some staff to register family members to take up any early morning vaccines that are not used because of missed appointments.

First Minister Mrs Foster said: “The vaccination centres are using the Pfizer vaccine, and it is very restrictive in how and when it can be used. It has to be kept at very cold temperatures and then used quite quickly."

She added: “I’d much rather see people vaccinated than waste the vaccine.”

The leader of frontline officers in Northern Ireland said the decision should be widened to all health trusts in the province and officers should be allocated the jabs. Police stations have been closed and officers are off sick because of the virus.

Mark Lindsay, Chair, Police Federation for Northern Ireland, told Police Oracle: “Life-saving vaccines should not be allowed to go to waste in this manner. We have asked for frontline officers to be prioritised after NHS frontline staff, vulnerable and elderly people. To date there has been a stubborn rebuttal of our concerns at Ministerial level.

“If take-up is less than expected, then officers, who are at daily risk of contracting the virus, should be given last-minute slots to avail of the vaccine.

"It would be scandalous if vaccines weren’t used when so many of our frontline officers are more than willing to take up the opportunity. I sincerely hope that this isn’t happening, simply because it’s in the too hard to do box.”

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USER67 - Sat, 30 January 2021

Just had to book my mum one. Police officers aren't listed as emergency services or frontline workers but coffee shop workers and truck drivers are an option. This country is a fucking embarrassment.