Multiple states are reporting vaccine hesitancy among their local police forces
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to new groups of people every day, it is frustrating to learn that some members of the police force, who have been prioritized across the country to receive the vaccine, are actually refusing to get their shot. From Boston to Chicago, reports are showing vaccine hesitancy and low rates of inoculation in local police forces.
According to The Boston Globe, a total of 845 members of the Massachusetts State Police declined to receive the vaccine at state police clinics when it was offered to them. ABC News points out “that’s about 30% of the force’s sworn and civilian officers.”
Of course, MSP Director of Media Communications told ABC News that those 845 members who declined their vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t get it, it just means they didn’t get the vaccine that was provided them through the Massachusetts State Police department. He says that theoretically, they could have gone to a private or other vaccine clinic for their shot. However, it’s unclear whether or not those 845 members got their vaccine elsewhere or not.
In Chicago, a local report said that less than 40% of Chicago Police Department employees responded “yes” to an internal department survey sent on January 9, 2021 asking if they “wish[ed] to receive the vaccine.” Then on January 22, the same department reported that only 37% of its members did end up getting the vaccine. There have no been updates on newer numbers as the vaccine became more available in the city.
In a February 12, 2021 article on AL.com, police agencies around Alabama reported that less than half of their officers have gotten vaccinated, which became available to them in the middle of January.
“We’ve sent out a variety of messages encouraging people to get it,” Gulf Shores Police Chief Ed Delmore told AL.com. “What’s been interesting to me is that some of the people who were most concerned of getting (coronavirus) and some of the same people who would potentially have bad outcomes if they would catch the virus, were also the ones that were opting not to get the vaccine.”
Another factor that Josh Bryant, president of the Alabama Firefighters Association, mentioned is that many of his members already had COVID-19 and therefore don’t feel as if they “need” protection from the virus. However, this logic is murky as it’s currently unknown how long COVID-19 positive persons have antibodies. There have also been people infected by the virus more than once.
Additionally, a new report by the AP shows that correctional officers in prisons are also refusing to get the jab. Surveys of prison guards in Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, and Iowa show that anywhere between 30% and a little over half of surveyed prison guards said they would get the vaccine, nowhere near the levels needed to reach herd immunity.
Now those are just early surveys, but at a Florida prison in Miami, as of March 11, 2021 “fewer than half the facility’s 240 employees had been fully vaccinated,” despite the fact that most police officers were made eligible at the start of the vaccine season. “Many of the workers who refused had expressed concerns about the vaccine’s efficacy and side effects,” Kareen Troitino, the local corrections officer union president told the AP.
Add this to the fact that many police departments across the country are leaving it up to officers whether they want to wear masks while on duty, which likely means some are opting not to. They’re supposed to “protect and serve” their community, so these low rates of vaccination and optional mask-wearing is extra alarming.