Police, teachers and shop staff risking their lives should get fast-tracked vaccine – Mirror Online
Key workers risking themselves to keep streets safe and schools open should be next in line for jabs, bosses and unions say.
Unions called for key workers to be given priority when experts draw up the list for the second stage of the mass inoculation programme.
More than 4.2million people, including NHS workers, care staff and over-80s, have received jabs so far.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is examining who should be bumped up the list when the first phase is finished.
Ultimately, ministers will decide.
Some 4,266,5777 people have received their first vaccination, figures showed tonight.
But the daily death toll hit a record high with 1,610 more announced – taking the total to 91,470.
Another 33,355 cases were diagnosed and a further 3,634 coronavirus patients were admitted to hospital, with 37,946 now being treated in hospital for Covid-19, including 3,916 on ventilators.
Britain’s top police officer was “baffled” frontline colleagues were not a higher priority for vaccines.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said: “In many other countries police officers and law-enforcement colleagues are being prioritised and I want my officers to get the vaccine.”
She told how dozens of police in the country’s biggest force have been spat or coughed at by yobs claiming they have coronavirus.
Dame Cressida told LBC radio: “It’s disgusting, it’s awful. We’ve had 97 occasions where somebody has either mentioned or threatened Covid and then coughed.
“Latterly we have 48 where they have spat.”
Three members of her force have died from coronavirus, including “one member of our police staff”, a worker based on a station’s front counter and a police community support officer, who died last week, she said.
A PC struck down with Covid-19 after being spat at by a suspect echoed the demand for officers to be prioritised for the vaccine.
The Dorset officer, 47, who asked not to be named, fell sick after he was attacked on duty in Bournemouth as he was trying to make an arrest earlier this month.
“Police officers should be much, much nearer the front of the queue for the vaccines,” he said.
“Every police officer knows that when they sign up to the job that there is an inherent risk.
“You can’t get control of somebody without necessarily getting hands-on with them – especially when they are not compliant, you have to contact them physically.
“Covid has changed things… you have to enter into that sort of zone of transmission.
“There is no way of avoiding that. We can use all the PPE and hand sanitiser in the world but ultimately we are at higher risk so we need that level of protection.”
The officer, who has worked for Dorset Police for 17 years, added: “Falling so ill has made me really anxious for my family.
“I’ve got a young son who is nine and my partner is high risk as she’s got asthma.
“Thankfully they haven’t become ill, neither have got symptoms which is a real blessing, but it doesn’t stop you worrying about it.”
Police Federation chairman John Apter said “My colleagues are at the frontline of this pandemic, risking infection from this vile and deadly disease every day to keep the public safe.
“I will continue to call for police officers, special constables and frontline police staff to be prioritised for the vaccine after the most vulnerable in society and colleagues from the NHS have received theirs.”
Teaching union chiefs believe vaccinating staff, alongside testing kids for coronavirus, is key to fully reopening schools.
Pupils face a postcode lottery after a top medic admitted schools could reopen at different times in different regions as the lockdown is lifted.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries was unable to rule out schools staying shut after February half-term, saying it was not a “fixed date”.
She told the Commons Education Select Committee London schools could reopen sooner than in the rest of the country as the capital was further ahead on the infection curve.
“I think it’s likely that we will have some sort of regional separation of interventions,” she told MPs.
Dr Harries claimed teachers were at no greater risk from Covid than other professions –although they are in the workplace while many others are at home, educating key workers’ children.
However, the National Education Union said the average rate of infection is 1.9 times higher among primary and secondary teachers than the general population – and twice as high for special school teachers.
For teaching assistants and other staff, it is three times higher in primary schools and almost seven times higher in special schools.
Five times more pupils are attending England’s schools than during the first lockdown.
Statistics today showed 21% of pupils attended state primary schools last Wednesday.
In May last year, just 4% of state primary pupils were attending classes.
State secondaries had 5% attendance last Wednesday – but that was five times the 1% of pupils who attended in May.
Simon Kidwell, a primary school headteacher in Cheshire, said: “Before schools can fully reopen you need to have a vaccinated workforce.”
He suggested schools would stay shut until after Easter unless key workers began receiving jabs during the first phase.
He urged health chiefs to prioritise school staff who were already on the initial list because of their age of medical conditions.
“A lot of the staff are still going into school because their roles can’t be done from home. There’s an argument to getting them prioritised,” said Mr Kidwell.
“I’ve got a caretaker over 70 who is coming in.
“I’ve got a cleaner who is extremely clinically vulnerable who wants to come in.
“I’ve got two colleagues who both have cancer but are still coming in, they’re choosing to do so.”
He added: “We all want to get back as soon as possible and if vaccinating the workforce is a way of doing that I would urge the Government to do that.”
Unions said inoculating teachers would boost a return to lessons.
NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “To help protect pupils, teachers and parents and get our schools open again it is vital to get teachers vaccinated.
“Our #vaccinate2educate campaign will allow the country to start to return back to normal with children able to return to schools and colleges.”
James Bowen, of headteachers’ union NAHT, said prioritising school staff “will not only help protect those staff, but also support a sustainable return to school in the longer term”.
Shop workers are also on the pandemic frontline of the coronavirus, with outlets selling essential goods allowed to remain.
Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Retail workers have played a key role in ensuring the country is able to get through the current crisis, so the second phase of the vaccine rollout must reflect the risks linked to occupation – and retail workers should be one of the groups prioritised.”
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “There is a good case for those in public-facing roles who come into contact with other people to be prioritised as part of phase two.
“It’s obviously the case it’s for the JCVI to look at who should be prioritised as part of phase two.”