Frontline workers at Covid testing centres have not yet been offered the vaccine because the government says they are not in ‘close contact’ with the virus and have appropriate PPE, MailOnline can reveal.
Staff at centres around the country say they have not had the potentially life-saving jab, despite carrying out hundreds of tests for patients who swab positive for coronavirus.
Workers at drive-through testing centres, who carry out PCR and lateral flow tests, routinely lean into cars to take swabs from people’s throats and noses, while others carry out tests inside temporary Portakabins.
Other frontline workers have now been offered the vaccine including NHS workers and care home staff. Police officers and teachers – other key workers – have yet to be given a time for when they will be inoculated.
Number 10 is aiming to vaccinate 15million people in the top priority groups by mid-February, with the aim of gradually easing lockdown when enough of Britain’s most vulnerable population has some protection.
But the list doesn’t include workers at testing sites across the UK, despite them coming into contact with people potentially-infected with the virus.
It comes after jabs were offered to clerical staff at a hospital in Scotland ahead of nurses, and to NHS office staff in some parts of England before doctors and nurses on hospital wards.
The Department of Health said they do not come into regular contact with the virus. But testers routinely lean into cars to take swabs from people potentially-infected with Covid-19. Above is a tester taking a swab at Chessington World of Adventures, near London
The Department of Health said they have adequate PPE to protect them from the virus. Above is a tester taking a swab from a student in Newcastle
A Covid tester leans into a car to take a swab at Chessington World of Adventures, near London
WHO’S FIRST IN LINE TO GET THE VACCINE?
Below is the Government’s vaccination priority list, decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation:
- Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers;
- All those 80 years old and over, alongside frontline NHS and social care workers
- All those 75 years old and over
- All those 70 years old and over
- All those 65 years old and over
- All those aged 16 to 64 years old with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years old and over
- All those 55 years old and over
- All those 50 years old and over
One test centre worker from Merseyside said: ‘It’s a big slap in the face really, nobody seems to thank us for the work we do and it seems as though nobody wants us to give us the proper protection either.
‘The NHS and hospital staff have done and are continuing to do a wonderful job – as are care home staff and social workers but they’ve rightly been offered the vaccine.
‘We are working in just as close contact to people with Covid as them.
‘A lateral flow test is essentially a laboratory test being conducted in a Portakabin so if someone tests positive for coronavirus then that space is contaminated and all we have to protect ourselves is a visor, mask, gloves and gown.
‘Test staff are falling ill with Covid all over the UK but it’s being kind of swept under the carpet. Some workers are even hiding symptoms because they’re on zero-hour contracts and if they have to self-isolate for ten days then they’ll not get paid.’
This week a testing centre in Warwickshire was temporarily closed due to a Covid outbreak with three workers testing positive for the virus on Wednesday.
A similar closure happened last October at a testing centre near Liverpool.
Test centre staff are prohibited from speaking to the media but a few have spoken anonymously to MailOnline to highlight their disappointment and fears of not being able to get the jab.
One worker from the West Midlands said: ‘I don’t think its right that we aren’t being given the same protection as other frontline Covid workers.
‘We are testing thousands of people a day and a proportion of them prove to have the virus.
‘How can it be right for an NHS office worker to be able to be given the vaccine when we can’t?
‘All that I and my colleagues have been given is the winter flu jab – nobody has even spoken to us about the Covid vaccine.’
Private companies brought in by the government to manage the test centres including Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, G4S and Boots say they have not yet been given a date for staff to be vaccinated.
A spokeswoman for Mitie said the matter was ‘under consideration’ however it ‘is something we’d like to get sorted quickly as safety of our staff is a priority.’
‘Staff in COVID-19 test centres are working on the front-line of this pandemic, providing vital services as part of the UK’s Coronavirus response,’ she said.
‘These individuals, who have shown such dedication in keeping Britain running and the public safe, deserve to be treated as equals to other healthcare colleagues.’
A Department for Health spokeswoman said any testing staff who fell under the four categories – those over 80, those over 70, NHS workers or the clinically vulnerable – would be given the jab in the first wave.
However she added: ‘In line with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), other testing staff will not prioritised in phase one as they do not come in close contact with those being tested, testing sites are well-ventilated and staff are provided with appropriate PPE.’