Despite being eligible for the vaccines, Alabama police and firefighters remain ambivalent towards COVID vaccination.
According to a report in Al.com, since being eligible for vaccines on January 18, Alabama police agencies are reporting across the board a less than 50% vaccination rate among officers for the novel coronavirus. Mobile Police Department, in one case, reported less than 25% vaccinated.
But Alabama is not necessarily a unique case. Law enforcement professionals around the country are in large part refusing to get the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. A December survey by website Police1 revealed a split of 38% in favor and against taking the vaccine, with 13% of respondents saying they would only take the vaccine if “mandated,” and another 11% saying they are unsure.
There are many factors behind the low immunization rate, including misinformation, previous infection, and scheduling difficulties.
Gulf Shores Police Chief Ed Delmore and Spanish Fort Chief John Barber are trying to encourage officers to get the vaccine after having gotten it themselves, but they are encountering difficulties.
Only a quarter of Barber’s Spanish Fort Police Department are currently vaccinated. According to Barber, misinformation about the efficacy and dangers of the vaccine are key factors in the fear generated towards inoculation.
Barber said that there was “quite a bit of misinformation out there about the effectiveness of the vaccine and potential side effects.”
Compounded to apparent misinformation on social media is the fact that police and firefighters are first in line for a vaccine that was developed at record speeds. Unsurprisingly, this has given rise to widespread skepticism.
The article also mentions that simple scheduling could be an issue. Since officers work in shifts and can’t leave their posts for a span of time, they may not be able to fit the shot in during the day. Another factor for the negative response rate could be the fact that a large number of Alabama firefighters and police officers have been infected within the last 90 days (the CDC recommends that those who have gotten the virus wait 90 days to get the vaccine).
Josh Bryant, president of the fire fighter’s association said, “I would say the prevailing attitude is that they have already had it, so a vaccination is not an option right now.”
Despite these reasons, it is clear that there is widespread hesitancy among police and firefighters. Delmore said that the “overall lack of trust in the vaccine” is unwarranted.
“I think the science is pretty clear that there is, in my mind, less of a gamble in getting the vaccine than in getting the virus. A lot of it is probably based on misinformation that has been put by a variety of sources. It’s disappointing to me.”
Alabama, like many states across the country, does not have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and will likely not pursue one. Current legislation allows people to opt out of immunization, and prohibits employers from taking action against unvaccinated employees.