The most senior police officer in Scotland says there are “legitimate concerns” around when staff will be vaccinated for coronavirus.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said he has “personally” been raising the matter with Scottish Government officials since before Christmas.
But at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority, he acknowledged it is a “monumentally challenging” situation.
Fears Covid is spreading around north-east HQ
He was asked about the state of the workforce in response to a P&J article published last month, where concerns were raised about the number of officers contracting coronavirus.
It was reported that around 20 people had become infected with the disease at a single police station in Bucksburn within a matter of days.
It was also feared Covid had been spreading round the north-east division’s Queen Street headquarters.
Over recent months, scores of coronavirus-related absences have been logged among police and staff across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.
Others have reported being spat at, coughed on and threatened with transmission on a regular basis.
The Scottish Government is continuing to follow the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance, which says those most at risk of dying from Covid should receive their jabs first.
Mr Livingstone said: “There is legitimate concern regarding the position of policing in the national vaccine programme plan.
“At this time there is no sector-based plan around the vaccine but, of course, this can change at any given time.
“I can give the assurance that I have been discussing vaccination with the Scottish Government since before Christmas.
“I have personally raised the matter with senior ministers about the potential for vaccination of officers and staff.”
The senior officer said it was “right” that the current roll-out continues to focus on the most vulnerable in society first.
He added: “Should a vaccine become available on a separate basis, we will be well placed to enable our people to receive the vaccine.
“We will continue to engage with officials from the Scottish Government on a regular basis.”
‘No sectoral prioritisation’
Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said the decision not to prioritise policing was a “cop out”.
He wrote to the health secretary for information after being contact by the parent of an officer.
But Jeane Freeman replied: “This evidence-based guidance advises that the single greatest risk of mortality from Covid-19 is increasing age, and that the risk increases exponentially with age.
“Additionally the committee considers frontline health and social care workers who provide direct care to vulnerable people a high priority for vaccination.
“Currently there is no sectoral prioritisation of any workers other than frontline health and social care workers.
“This is because we don’t know if the vaccine prevents spread, but it does reduce the harm to those most at risk should they catch the virus.
“Individual members of the police force as with other occupations will be called forward for vaccination according to their position on the priority list, if they are eligible.”
Mr Burnett said: “The police have been on the front line of the Covid-19 response across the north-east, protecting communities at great personal risk.
“But we are regularly hearing about disgusting instances of officers being spat at or coughed on yet despite this, Jeane Freeman has confirmed to me they are not on the priority list.
“It’s a shameful decision and a cop out from the government who aren’t taking the dangers posed to police seriously.
“Officers should be moved up the priority list as a matter of urgency and the reluctance to do this will only add to the stress police are under.
“The recent rise in Covid absences, coupled with other winter-related illnesses and holidays, means it’s even more imperative that the vaccine reaches them sooner rather than later.”