Without Department Mandates, Police Officers Avoid Vaccinations

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According to data made available by some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, while police officers were among the first front-line workers to gain priority access to coronavirus vaccines, their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public, a fact that threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, reports the Washington Post. At the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, just 39 percent of employees have gotten at least one dose, officials said, compared to more than 50 percent of eligible adults nationwide. In Atlanta, 36 percent of sworn officers have been vaccinated. And a mere 28 percent of those employed by the Columbus Division of Police — Ohio’s largest police department — report having received a shot.

Because officers have high rates of diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, their hesitancy puts them at greater risk of serious illness from the coronavirus while also undermining force readiness. And while other municipal organizations, such as fire departments, have made vaccinations compulsory, department leaders and union officials warn that such requirements could backfire or lead to lengthy litigation. Officers have voiced unease about the novelty of the shots and the speed with which they were developed, along with confidence that they can avoid the virus with proper protective gear. Many officers also reject immunization because they think previous COVID-19 infections have given them immunity. Some cities are turning to financial incentives to boost participation, but many officials say they are not even tracking inoculations. Meanwhile, departments that have attempted to institute vaccine mandates have been met with multiple federal lawsuits contending that vaccines authorized for emergency use cannot be made a condition of employment.

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