Union calls for police to be prioritised in vaccine rollout

Victorian police are arguing they should be prioritised in the vaccine rollout, claiming the health department has been “slow to move”.

Police association state secretary Wayne Gatt said the infrastructure of Victoria’s centralised police workforce meant officers were working across high-risk areas without having had the jab.

“The problem is our members now are in such high rotation in these jobs that we really need to get all of our members vaccinated,” Mr Gatt told 3AW radio on Wednesday.

“It’s a risk when you’ve got centralised workers that aren’t vaccinated working in high-risk areas.

“Out there today in regional Victoria, we’ve got Melbourne-based police workers patrolling those areas – of course they should be vaccinated.”

Mr Gatt said some police members spent “hours on end in hospitals” which were effectively closed for elective surgery as a result of the Covid risk.

“We’ve got police officers who can’t be vaccinated sitting in there with mental health patients for four to six hours,” he told the radio station.

“We’ve got to unblock this and we’ve got to unblock it quickly, because how would you be if a police officer became an index case going into the Flemington flats again?

“That would be a disaster and that’s the sort of thing that could put us into another lockdown.”

Mr Gatt said he had sympathy for police in their bid to “fast track” members to get the jab.

However, he said the force was being “frustrated” by the health department.

“They’ve been slow to move on this. It is frustrating. I know they’re busy and I’m sympathetic to them,” he said.

“But not being responsive to these issues can sometimes be the seed for some really big-impact issues for Victorians – let’s make sure it’s not one of these ones.”

Health Minister Martin Foley said on Wednesday the government was working with Victoria Police on the best system to vaccinate officers.

Mr Foley said many police were rotating through the hotel quarantine system as part of its security workforce and significant numbers had already been fully vaccinated.

The government was trying to work within the constraints of vaccine supplies to balance the huge demand from Victorians, with the need to target specific groups such as Victoria Police, which he said have been “extraordinarily cooperative”.

Any Victorian over 40 was eligible for the jab and could attend participating GP clinics or mass vaccination centres, the Minister added.

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Author: Shirley

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