ANGRY police officers have described the Government’s decision to deny them a level of priority for the Covid-19 vaccine roll out as baffling and a major blow in the fight against the virus.

Zoe Wakefield, chair of Hampshire Police Federation, said she and colleagues are furious following the Government’s vaccine snub as her colleagues are being spat at, bitten and contracting the virus through their job.

She said “police officers need protecting so they can protect the public.”

However Health Secretary Matt Hancock told police officers on Monday in no uncertain terms that they will have to wait their turn to receive the Covid-19 vaccine - and that they will not be prioritised.

Mr Hancock told a press conference that officers will not be vaccinated until after groups 1-9, as deemed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which means they will have to wait for 32 million others to get the jab first.

Ms Wakefield said: “I am completely baffled and angry that the Government are blatantly ignoring the need for police officers to be vaccinated in the next cohort. Do they not understand that vaccinating police officers will not only protect this essential emergency service but it will also reduce the spread of infection?

“Some forces have sickness rates of 12%. That is not sustainable.

“Police officers are mixing with numerous people every day and are not able to socially distance in every situation. They are being spat at, bitten and contracting the virus through their job. Police officers have lost their lives due to Covid-19.

“They need protecting so they can protect the public.”

The Government decision to not prioritise police officers has come despite lobbying from the Police Federation, Chief Police Officers, the Met Commissioner and the College of Policing. And Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last month that police officers should be vaccinated “as soon as possible”, whilst Home Secretary Priti Patel told policing to “get ready” for officers to receive the vaccine.

Hampshire Police Federation Secretary Garry Smith added: “

Our members are angry that they are in the face of an invisible enemy, the first line of defence for the public and they stand between the virus and public safety, upholding and enforcing the law yet they have been shunned.”

He added: “Here in Hampshire just to have a couple of thousand vaccines for the high risk and vulnerable officers and staff would go some way in reassuring the public, reduce anxiety amongst cops and help us fight this deadly virus.”

Mr Hancock told the press conference: “We have ensured, through the clinical advice that we’ve taken, that the vaccine rollout goes through those who are most at risk first. So any police officer who is aged over 50 will be part of the initial rollout through the current groups down to what I call the JCVI cohorts 1-.”

“After that we will then look at what order we go next and we’ll consider, for instance, questions of people who are in professions where you might have to be in contact with more people and the impact of the vaccine on transmission and make a decision and publicise it as soon as we’ve made that decision.

“No decision has yet been made in what order we’ll go after the JCVI cohorts 1-9 but we’re looking very closely, including at where police officers should be in that order.”