The police hierarchy asked personnel not to get vaccinated at the beginning of the Covid-19 vaccine launch, unless they did so through the provider chosen by the police.
That was because the police were prioritizing knowing who had been vaccinated, rather than getting as many people as possible their inoculations, according to information obtained by RNZ under the Official Information Law.
At the same time, it was noted that staff who were able to get vaccinated through the police MedPro provider were slow to show up for their injections.
The government did not prioritize police officers when they announced their plan to launch the vaccine, with the vast majority at level four.
At first, only officers working in managed isolation had priority as part of level one: just over 200 officers.
In April, the government agreed to transfer 1,790 police officers to level 1B, because they would also be dispatched to MIQ facilities.
But the emails obtained by RNZ program staff were slow to come forward for their vaccinations.
Superintendent Mel Aitken, who is in charge of the vaccination campaign within the police, said an email was sent to all staff to encourage people to sign up.
“That was a decision made at the center after a period of time targeting identified Level 1 staff and with poor acceptance of bookings (despite sending reminders to each),” he said in an email exchange obtained by RNZ.
“I ran the risk of having clinics that were half full and vaccines wasted, so I opened them to everyone in the district.”
Police Association President Chris Cahill said he had not heard of staff resistance to getting vaccinated.
The slow uptake was likely due to shift work, because officers were eager to get vaccinated, he said.
“That would be my opinion, is that a large part of the staff in this cohort of 1700 were actually shift workers, so if you set up clinics during the day, a lot of them would not be registered to work, so they would not get there. , “Cahill said.
“That would be my understanding, although it is not entirely clear to me.”
Aitken told RNZ 3000 staff that they were asked if they would like to join the launch of the Level 1B vaccine, and that the target number of 1,790 vaccinated employees was met within the planned time frame.
A week after those vaccines were approved, Chief Adviser to Police Commissioner Andrew Coster Cassandra Anderson asked if a shift in focus around vaccines was necessary.
“To date, we have encouraged people not to get vaccinated outside of the formal police and provider process,” Anderson wrote.
“This is mainly because we can know who has been vaccinated and schedule it in coordination with the flu vaccine and in accordance with the cabinet directive.”
Anderson asked Coster if the “status quo” should remain, or if they should accept that if some people or districts can get vaccinated sooner, they should stop.
RNZ understands that there were times when vaccination clinics had replacement vaccines at the end of the day, and their first port of call would be the local police station asking if they had staff who wanted to get vaccinated.
Often times, those offers were rejected.
Cahill said the police hierarchy soon changed its mind.
“The police were originally discouraged that because they were concerned they would not have a record of what police personnel had or had not been vaccinated with,” Cahill said.
“But they recognized it relatively quickly, it is actually better to vaccinate people and we will deal with the bureaucracy behind this later.”
The emails also show that the police were trying to change their designation and for the officers to be recognized as essential workers in need of inoculations.
But the commissioner was informed that his status could only change when Covid alert levels changed, essentially when an outbreak occurred.
Coster was told that the police could not make the cabinet’s decision easily reviewed.
Police finally received priority in late July, ahead of the rest of the nationwide level four deployment.
Mel Aitken said that 80 percent of police officers have received a vaccination and 64 percent are fully vaccinated.