Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
North Wales Police Federation wants officers to be given “some vaccine priority”, claiming they face a greater risk of contracting Covid than the general public.
Sent by the federation’s general secretary to all North Wales Senedd members and distributed on social media on Thursday, the letter outlines the risks frontline officers face in the line of duty.
It asks Senedd Members to lobby Welsh Government to give officers “some priority” for the vaccine – a called echoed by police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones.
The communication also highlighted the threat of infection police staff face due to the “sheer number of people” ignoring lockdown rules and travelling to North Wales beauty spots.
Officers are facing risks of infection three to four times higher than the general public are experiencing, the letter claims.
From dealing with illegal gatherings, such as disorder or parties, to dealing with sudden Covid-related deaths and domestic violence issues, the federation claims police face constant threats to their health from the virus.
A petition with more than 10,000 signatories, calling on Welsh Government to put police on the prioritisation list for Covid-19 vaccination, has been lodged with the Senedd.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We are following the priority groups set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and all people in the highest priority groups will be immunised as safely and as soon as possible.”
In his letter to Senedd Members NW Police Federation general secretary Mark Jones said: “We represent over 1,500 brave, hard working and dedicated police officers in North Wales.
“Throughout this period since Covid-19 gripped our communities, the vast majority of police officers have had no option but to continue working.
“Sadly, in North Wales, we have seen many colleagues who have become unwell with Covid-19 and many more having to self isolate.
“Many of my members have passionately described their fears in bringing Covid-19 back to their family homes and thus putting their loved ones at significant risk of contracting this deadly virus.
“Whilst I appreciate the vaccine programme is ramping up and being rolled out further… policing does not feature and appears to have not been considered for some priority.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones backed the call from the local Police Federation.
He said: “Being a police officer can be a difficult and dangerous job at the best of times.
“Every time they go on duty, officers know they could potentially be putting their lives on the line and the pandemic has added another layer of risk, especially as a result of the new variant of Covid-19 that’s even more infectious.
“Officers have also had to contend with the vile additional threat from a small minority of offenders spitting or coughing in their faces, saying they are infected with coronavirus.
“Like the Police Federation, I am disappointed that frontline officers are not considered to be one of the priority groups as part of the vaccination programme.
“I too am calling on the Welsh Government to put this right by including police officers among those given priority to receive a jab so they can continue to protect our communities across North Wales during the pandemic.”
Mark Jones said reports in the media last weekend showed the “sheer number of people travelling to North Wales beauty spots” and the risks of engaging with the public “cannot be completely mitigated against”.
He added: “As our elected representatives in the Senedd it is our request that you communicate to the Welsh Government the strong feelings and our position that policing must be considered for some priority on the Covid-19 vaccination programme.”