Calls for police and teachers to get vaccine sooner
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Calls to extend the priority Covid-19 vaccination list to include police and teachers have been backed in Suffolk.
Police and teaching representatives said both should be given appropriate priority after the most vulnerable and frontline NHS workers.
Suffolk Police Federation said it was important for officers protecting communities to be properly screened from the virus.
Meanwhile, a teaching union also reiterated calls for increased testing capacity for staff and pupils.
Suffolk Police Federation Secretary, Ben Hudson said officers had put in a Herculean effort to keep the country safe and the pandemic under control while putting themselves and their families at increased risk of infection.
“With the new variant of the virus spreading even faster than before across the country, we need to ensure that those who our communities look to, to prevent and detect crime and safeguard the vulnerable, are themselves protected so that they can continue this vital work," he added.
“The Government must ensure that police officers are given an appropriate priority for vaccination, once the most vulnerable in society and those working on the frontline with our NHS have been vaccinated."
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The national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has called on the Prime Minister to "do the right thing" and ensure officers receive priority access to vaccines.
He said it was not about "jumping the queue" but ensuring police are prioritised as part of the vaccine programme.
According to the Government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) does not advise further prioritisation by occupation during the first phase of the programme, but that the first priorities should be the prevention of mortality and the protection of health and social care.
Dave Lee-Allan, head of Stowmarket High School and chair of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, said it would make a huge difference to know his staff are protected.
"Teachers should absolutely be given the vaccine early," he said.
"The government keeps saying that it is the national priority to keep children in school as it is hugely significant to their wellbeing, yet we apparently don't qualify for the early vaccine.
"We continue to be on the list of keyworkers, so if we are so important then prove it."
Graham White, spokesman for National Education Union, Suffolk, said the Government would have to look at vaccinating teachers if it felt education was a real priority, adding: “Getting teachers vaccinated is very important.
“My view is that we must look to vaccinate the most vulnerable first, but also doctors, nurses, hospital workers etc, so they can continue to see people safely. They all need to be a high priority, and carers and teachers should also be fairly high up the list.
“Clearly the testing capacity is the most important thing at the moment. We must be regularly testing all teachers and school staff, every two days in my opinion. All students, from primary through to secondary should also be tested regularly.”
Craig D’Cunha, executive headteacher at Chantry Academy, said teachers should be high up the priority list, “but not at the expense of the more vulnerable”.
“I am all for getting kids back to school safely and the vaccine needs to be in place, as teachers who are of a higher age are more at risk. But none of our teachers would want to be a higher priority than the more vulnerable,” said Mr D’Cunha.
“The vaccine is a game changer, and it will allow people to move back to normality, but mass testing is also really important. However, the speed and resources this requires is challenging.”