Dear Mr Steele,
I would like to thank you very much for your letter of 17 December, on behalf of the European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP). I also received a letter from EuroCOP on 10 November, including a meeting request that I unfortunately could not give a positive response to because of heavy agenda constraints at the current stage.
We are aware that police officers have played, and continue to play, a key role in our fight against COVID-19. We are also aware that police officers, like other frontline workers, such as health professionals, could be particularly exposed to infection with SARS-CoV-2 and even transmit the virus further.
As referred to in your letter, new COVID-19 vaccines could indeed make a big contribution to our exit from the pandemic. By means of our ambitious EU Strategy for COVID-19 vaccines1, the Commission has secured access for EU citizens to such vaccines as soon as they become available. And as you are surely aware, on 21 December and 6 January, we authorised the first two vaccines against COVID-19 for the EU market. These – and hopefully soon other vaccines – will now be rolled out rapidly in Member States.
The prospect of new COVID-19 vaccines was the reason why we, on 15 October, published a Communication on preparedness for COVID-19 vaccination strategies and vaccine deployment2, also referred to in your letter. Since then, we have closely followed Member States’ development of COVID-19 vaccination plans, and it might be of interest for you to consult the following overview published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control3.
As you point out in your letter, we have invited Member States to make urgent decisions already last autumn on which groups should have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, and to include police officers in its list of priority groups to be considered. However, it is important to be aware that vaccination policies, programmes and services are a national responsibility, and that the list constitutes only a recommendation.
As regards the recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease, this matter, as you know, is closely linked to national social security schemes, and once again falls under the competence of the Member States. Commissioner Schmit and I have recently sent a joint letter to the relevant ministers in Member States drawing their attention to this important issue. In this letter we clearly mention the importance of recognising and compensating staff should they fall ill as a consequence of their work. We also recall that Commission Recommendation 2003/670/EC on the European schedule of occupational diseases contains a specific provision that can certainly cover COVID-19.
I would like to thank you once again for your letter and for your continuous support, and I take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and safe New Year 2021.