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First responders put other people at risk by refusing to take the vaccine

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The idea that decisions about whether to take the vaccine is just a personal consumer matter is very, very dumb, and here’s another case in point:

Police officers were among the first front-line workers to gain priority access to coronavirus vaccines. But their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public, according to data made available by some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.

The reluctance of police to get the shotsthreatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.

At the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, just 39 percent of employees havegotten 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.

“I think it’s unacceptable,” Joe Lombardo, the head of Las Vegas police and sheriff of Clark County, said of themeager demand for the shots within his force.

The numbers paint a troubling picture of policing and public health. Because officershave high rates of diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, their hesitancyputs them at greater risk of serious illness from the coronavirus while also undermining force readiness, experts said. Police officers were more likely to die of covid-19 last year than of all other causes combined, according to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police hesitancy also means officers may be vectors of spread to vulnerable people with whom they interact during traffic stops, calls for service and other high-contact encounters. That could thwart efforts to restore community trust in a moment of heightened scrutiny after last month’s conviction of ex-officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.

To the extent that union contracts permit it, COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory for first responders. There is no “right” to infect a captive audience with a deadly virus.

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