Further calls for police and teachers to get Covid-19 jab sooner
- Credit: PA
Renewed calls have been made for police officers and teachers to receive Covid-19 jabs sooner, following news they would not be included in the first phase of the vaccine roll-out.
The county's Police Federation accused the government of "lacking understanding" of modern policing after it was revealed frontline officers would likely face a wait until late spring to get vaccinated against the virus.
Meanwhile, a Suffolk assistant headteacher said she could not understand why teachers were being made to wait for vaccinations ahead of a potential reopening of all schools on March 8 in England.
The government said it was "grateful for the tireless efforts" of key workers, such as police officers and teachers - but added it was following advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Last week, all 43 branches of the Police Federation of England and Wales signed an open letter to the government stating officers felt "betrayed" by a lack of action to protect them.
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Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said the government "needs to realise that you cannot police at a two-metre distance".
"It shows how the government lacks the understanding of today's policing and how big of a footprint we have in the care setting," he said.
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"Be it on the Orwell Bridge dealing with someone in a mental health crisis, being first to the scene of a serious road traffic collision, acting as the coroner's officer at a sudden death, dealing with a victim of a serious assault or assisting paramedics with a violent patient.
"To me, this just adds to the issues with the weaponising of the virus by individuals who assault officers by coughing, spiting and biting.
"With the seven-day rolling average of UK vaccinations hitting 435,000, it would have little impact to prioritise 130,000 police officers during stages five to nine of the rollout."
Claire Broxton, assistant headteacher at Stowmarket High School, said teachers and school staff would feel safer with the vaccine - and it would enable pupils to get the support they need.
"I think it would make us feel safer if we had the vaccination but more importantly, it would enable us to continue supporting and educating students in the way that we used to, which we have just haven't been able to do properly," she said.
"There's this perception that teachers do not want to be back in schools, but we do want to be back. Not just in the safest possible way but also in the way that we can still do our job.
"That's a big factor I think, people are saying it's not safe, we are safe but we would be safer if we had the vaccination.
"The key for us is we want to be able to do the job we need to do and the limitations of Covid don't allow us to do that at the moment.
"The NHS is doing an amazing job of getting these jabs out very quickly but I can't understand, if you want education back on track and schools up and running again, why it's such a difficult concept and why we would have to wait another several months."
Graham White, from the Suffolk branch of the National Education Union, said: "The vaccine rollout appears to be going well and it would make sense to vaccinate all key workers including school staff, police, NHS workers, care staff, social workers and those who have close regular contact with the public.
"It is very important that a routine testing regime is in place for all public-facing roles including school staff.
"Staff cannot be compelled to take these tests but we would encourage staff to comply in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus in all its mutations."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are grateful for the tireless efforts of all our key workers, including police officers and teachers, at this difficult time. They are keeping us safe and ensuring that vital services carry on.
“We are following advice from the independent JCVI to vaccinate the most vulnerable people in cohorts one to four first.
"They advised the immediate priority should be to prevent deaths and protect health and care staff, with old age deemed the single biggest factor determining mortality.”