THE secretary of the Dyfed Powys Police Federation has backed a plea from the organisation’s national chair for police officers to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Roger Webb says John Apter is right to urge Health Minister Vaughan Gething to reconsider the decision not to make police officers a priority group of workers in the jab roll-out programme.

“Police officers are facing a daily risk from the virus and to protect them, the police service and the public, they should be prioritised in the programme to roll-out the new jabs,” said Mr Webb, who along with Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, had called for the Welsh Government to include police officers on the priority list earlier this month.

Mark Bleasdale, Welsh lead for the federation, is also supporting the call. “As it stands, the majority of police officers will sit in the population group under the age of 50 and, therefore, will not be given any priority as the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out,” he said.

“While we fully respect the need to ensure that the country’s most vulnerable people, along with frontline health workers and care home staff should be the first in line to get the jab, I fully support the national federation chair in his plea for police officers to be given some priority.”

In his letter, Mr Apter explains that police officers are more likely to be off sick with the virus, with them having to deal with the general public on a daily basis, as well as supporting fellow emergency services.

“In reality, in Wales, we are asking that the frontline officers and staff within the police service are considered for some priority and those numbers are relatively small compared with those two million people in the first nine priority categories,” he says.

“Without it, I have genuine concerns that the resilience of the police service across Wales will be negatively impacted upon and forces will struggle to deal with demands as the number of officers reporting sick grows.

“I therefore ask that you reconsider the issue. I understand from my Welsh colleagues that chief constables in Wales may even have capacity to issue the vaccinations within their forces themselves as they all have occupational health units and can manage the logistics of it.”

Mr Bleasdale said there are 7,500 police officers in Wales and they have remained on the frontline throughout the pandemic, serving and protecting the public, while putting their own and their families’ health at risk.

“Our officers are called out to houses and situations where Covid-19 might be present, exposing them to the virus frequently but also meaning that they could pass on the virus, unknowingly as they go from job to job carrying out their duties and responding to the public,” he added.

“Officers need to be vaccinated as soon as is practical to protect their health, that of the public they serve and also the resilience of the police service.”

Mr Apter’s letter follows the launch of a petition calling for police officers to be given priority during the jab roll-out. The petition was created by Graham Bishop, the father of a police officer who contracted coronavirus before passing it onto his heavily pregnant wife. She ended up having an emergency caesarean with the twins born a month early.

To spark a debate in the Senedd, the petition needs to be signed by 10,000 people and has so far reached 8,500 signatures.