Law enforcement officers have been resisting the coronavirus vaccine in large numbers; however, COVID-19 has killed more police in the last year than any other factor.
According to a Stars and Stripes article, in the first half of 2021, 71 U.S. law enforcement officers died from COVID-19, which is just under the 76 that died during the same period in 2020. In all of 2020, 241 U.S. law enforcement officers died from COVID-19. A study by Case Western Reserve University supports the article, showing more active-duty officers died from the virus last year than from all other causes combined.
Despite the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases within law enforcement ranks, police officers and departments have largely avoided the vaccine. There are currently no statistics showing the national vaccination rate for law enforcement officers; however, individual police and fire departments across the country show vaccination rates far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.
The low vaccination rate among law enforcement officers is pushing states and localities to enact vaccination mandates among their workers. However, police and firefighter unions have threatened to sue local governments that enforce vaccination mandates.
President of San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, Shon Buford, is pushing city leaders to delay its Oct.13 vaccinate or terminate deadline. In New York and Los Angeles, police unions have proposed weekly testing in lieu of vaccinations.
Octavia Tokley, whose husband Erin, a Philadelphia police officer and father of three who died in March, told Stars and Stripes she doesn’t understand why law enforcement officials are turning down COVID-19 vaccines.
“It makes me sad that they don’t see it as another safety precaution,” said Tokley. “You wear masks, you wear bulletproof vests. You protect each other. That’s what you do, you protect and you serve.”
There have been more than 40 million COVID-19 cases and 666,000 deaths in the U.S. since the pandemic began. The delta and mu variants are now prevalent in the country. With the summer ending, the number of deaths could reach over 1 million by the end of the year.