The union representing Toronto police officers is defending the inclusion of most frontline cops in the first phase of the province’s vaccine rollout.

Approximately 2,250 Toronto police officers are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, despite vaccine shortages which have delayed the vaccination of many healthcare workers and most at-risk seniors living in Ontario communities.

Police officers were added to the priority groups recently, alongside all other front-line personnel who provide health-care services.

The vaccination of police officers began yesterday at Michael Garron Hospital and is expected to continue over the coming days and weeks.

“Our officers are actually attending a lot of these medical calls. As an example over the last year we did almost 23,000 ambulance calls and 932 medical complaints. We have also administered almost 1,000 doses of naloxone. So we really are the front line and that doesn’t event take into consideration all the shootings and stabbings our officers have to attend as well,” Jon Reid, who is the president of the Toronto Police Association, told CP24 on Tuesday afternoon when asked about the inclusion of police officers in a limited number of priority groups.

The province has only been able to administer 727,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far, meaning that many people in high-risk settings remain unprotected.

It has said that it hopes to vaccinate an additional 7.5 million people as part of the second phase of its vaccine rollout when it begins in April.

That stage will prioritize a number of additional groups, including frontline essential workers and people who work and live in congregate settings.

Reid told CP24 that it is “very important” that we get all vulnerable groups vaccinated but he said that officers who often respond to medical calls need to be high on the priority list given their added risk of contracting COVID-19.

“It was really important for us to keep pushing forward and make sure our members were protected, make sure their families are protected and make sure the public is protected as well when these officers respond to these calls,” he said.

The federal National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends police and firefighters be offered vaccines only after all people aged 70 and over, all residents of congregate care settings and all Indigenous adults have received doses.