Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd has told local health leaders he is “disappointed” that police officers will not be given priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Priority for vaccination is primarily determined by age and some underlying health conditions – with only NHS and social care staff given priority because of their jobs.

But Hertfordshire's commissioner Mr Lloyd has repeatedly called for front-line police officers to be given priority.

And at a meeting of the county’s health and wellbeing board he told members he was “disappointed” that no exception had been made.

He did acknowledge that a number of police officers had received the vaccination – after being allocated leftover doses that would otherwise have been thrown away.

But he said not including them early in the vaccination programme sent a message that ‘we don’t really care about them’.

Addressing the board meeting on Wednesday (March 10), Mr Lloyd said: “I really am disappointed that front-line police officers have not been early in the vaccination programme.

“I know that we have a ‘work-around’ which says that those vaccines that otherwise would be wasted – rather than being thrown down a drain – are put into the arms of police officers. And that’s brilliant.

“I think around 800 police officers have so far had that opportunity – and that’s brilliant.

“But  the message we are sending out to police officers – by not giving [it to] those who are on the front-line, and are probably at a higher risk of catching, although not getting seriously ill because of their age – […] is that we don’t really care about them.

“And I just wonder whether or not there isn’t an opportunity almost unilaterally for us to decide, 'look, let’s just do it, let’s do it for police officers – let’s just show that we believe that the are putting themselves on the front line, at risk'.”

Mr Lloyd made the remarks following an update on the progress of the vaccination programme across Hertfordshire and West Essex by Jane Halpin, who is joint chief executive officer of the Herts and West Essex ICS and the CCGs.

Dr Halpin reported that 30 per cent of the Hertfordshire and west Essex population had already received a first dose of the vaccine.

But she said the "lion's share" was still to come – and said there were plans to ramp up the delivery of the vaccinations in coming weeks.

She suggested that they had been pleased with uptake of the vaccine amongst all groups to date and that there had been "a huge appretite" to come forward overall.

And she said they were now starting to move into second doses in larger numbers – with number of second doses now set to grow significantly.

According to Dr Halpin more than 80 per cent of NHS and social care workers had already received the vaccine – with take-up rates of 76 per cent in the East and North Herts NHS Trust, 72 per cent in the West Herts Hospitals Trust and 91 per cent amongst General Practice staff.

In response to Mr Lloyd’s concerns, she said the programme reflected a national policy, underpinned by advice from the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) – and that there wasn’t the opportunity to act unilaterally.

She acknowledged that there had been a morale boost in offering the vaccine to workers in health and social care.

And "on an employer and human basis" she said she understood the point he was making.

But she stressed that the roll-out of the vaccine was designed to prevent serious illness and death – with the ‘biggest drivers’ of that being age and deprivation, in addition to chronic disease and obesity.

And she said: “. . . certainly the work JCVI did looking at patterns of serious illness and death by occupation really identified only front-line health and care social workers as being at really significant increased risk.

“And they were extremely concerned that starting to bring forward different occupational groups would slow down the overall roll-out.

“Therefore their compromise option was we keep going using age as the biggest proxy indicator and we get people done fastest that way.”

The meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board can be viewed at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/watchmeetings