(Headline USA) Police officers and other first responders are among those most hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine and they are resisting vaccine mandates.
No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.
Power-hungry city leaders are enacting mandates for their municipal employees — including police officers and firefighters.
The mandates’ consequences range from weekly testing to suspension to termination. It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.
San Francisco firefighter Christopher Salas 58, has nearly 28 years on the job — 21 of them in the city’s tough Tenderloin district.
He wears a mask and washes his hands and sanitizes himself. But he stops short at getting the shot — and plans to retire early instead of acquiescing to the city’s ultimatum of get vaccinated or get terminated.
“I’m not an anti-vaxxer,” he said. “I have all my other vaccines. I’m just not taking this one.”
He considered it, just to be able to finish out his career with three decades of service. But after praying about it with his wife, he remains concerned about the efficacy and side effects of the vaccine.
“I don’t think I’d be comfortable with myself if I did something that went against my belief,” he said of getting the vaccine. “It’s about liberty and having your own choice to be your own person.”
Unions across the country are fighting back. Shon Buford, president of San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, is urging city leaders to delay their Oct. 13 vaccinate-or-terminate deadline.
Twenty workers who did not disclose whether they had received a shot by a previous deadline may receive 10-day unpaid suspensions.
One firefighter has sued San Francisco, which was the first major U.S. city to adopt a vaccine mandate for its workers. The overwhelming majority of the city’s workforce of 36,000 is vaccinated, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Buford, who is vaccinated, says he needs more time to educate his hesitant members, and he’s disappointed that San Francisco took such a harsh stance from the beginning.
Firefighters like Salas have threatened to retire, and others say they will risk termination.
“To me, they deserve more than an ultimatum,” Buford said.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, has proposed required weekly testing for cops— like the New York City Police Department — in lieu of the mandate signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Aug. 20 that makes vaccinations part of city workers’ job conditions.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said 51% of the department has been vaccinated as of Aug. 31 and more than 100 personnel got their shots in the last week and a half.
In California’s state prisons, a federal judge could order all correctional employees and inmate firefighters to be vaccinated under a class-action lawsuit.
In mid-July, 41% of correctional officers statewide had at least one dose of a vaccine, compared to 75% of inmates.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.