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I recognise that there are extreme sensitivities around Prison staff vaccinations as keyworkers during the pandemic and the POA and indeed HMPPS Senior leaders are making the case to Government that Prisons are just as equally important as any other workplace where keyworkers exist and that prison staff and those in our care should be prioritised.
On Sunday 24th January 2021 reports in the media sensationalised a Healthcare letter at HMP Frankland regarding the vaccination being distributed to those that are vulnerable/ priority according to the criteria set out by Public Health England. I have discussed this issue with the local branch officials at HMP Frankland who are aware that this Circular is being promulgated for clarity.
I have also had discussions with Phil Copple Director General and Richard Vince, Executive Director Long-Term High Security Estate who have confirmed that there will not be any short cuts in the established criteria that is set out in the published criteria for vaccinations. Prisoners in our care will be treated no differently to those in the community and that is in keeping with the published criteria by Government when it comes to the vaccine. I am confident that the process will not permit any queue jumping and POA members and the general public can be confident that the commentary in the media at the weekend was purely sensationalising an issue that unfortunately attracts the wrong sort of publicity for HMPPS.
There is much speculation in the media as to which keyworkers will be the priority for the vaccine but one thing is for certain-Government have not as yet clarified whether keyworkers outside the vulnerable categories and outside health and social care will be prioritised for the vaccine in the future. The National Chairman and I will be meeting with the Secretary of State on Thursday 28th January 2021 to reiterate the importance for not just POA members but all Prison staff and those in our care that we get the vaccine in a timely manner as preservation of life is essential. I will keep you updated as issues progress in relation to the decisions on vaccine roll-out for keyworkers as information becomes available.
Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.