Low Police Vaccination Rates a Public Risk, Experts Warn

Vaccination rates among police officers are lower than the general public even though they were among the first front-line workers to get priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.

According to The Washington Post, vaccine hesitancy not only threatens the health of law officers who shun the drugs, put poses a threat to the public they serve. Just 39% of employees received at least one dose at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department compared to 50% of entitled adults in America. Only 28% at the Columbus Division of Police, Ohio’s largest police department report, getting a shot.

“I think it’s unacceptable,” said Sheriff Joe Lombardo, head of the Las Vegas police department. Statistics show police officers are often at high risk for medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions, the Post reported. This increases their propensity to have serious illness and complications from COVID-19. Data shows COVID-19 likely killed more officers than all other causes combined last year.

Experts warn, vaccine hesitancy among law enforcement officers might be a threat to the public as they often interact and touch people in the line of duty during traffic stops or calls for service. Last month’s conviction of ex-officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd illustrates how trust in our police officers is already compromised, according to the newspaper, and their reluctance to get vaccinated might exacerbate that situation.

“Police touch people,” said Professor Sharona Hoffman, an expert in bioethics at Case Western Reserve University. “Imagine having a child in the car who’s not vaccinated. People want to know if a police officer coming to their window is protected.”

According to the Post, the officers’ hesitancy to get vaccinated mirrors the reaction of other front-line workers in the healthcare field. A survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation recently found, only 52% of healthcare workers received a COVID-19 shot. These figures underscore the fear the U.S. will not achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.

Mandating vaccination might lead to complicated and lengthy legal battles, the Post reported. Police officers and their unions believe the choice to get a vaccine is a private matter. Officers have said their hesitancy is based on the novelty of the vaccines and believe they can protect themselves with proper personal protective equipment.

“I hate to sound like I don’t care, but I really don’t,” commented Vince Champion, the Southeast regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. “It’s a personal decision. We fight the virus every day. We’re out among every disease in the world.”

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