Health leaders concerned as some first responders refuse the COVID-19 vaccine

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Vaccination hesitation. FOX13 discovered some City of Memphis first responders are not willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This has health leaders concerned as Memphis and Shelby County race to control the virus.

The reasons why some first responders are not getting the vaccine vary from hesitation to being cautious. The City of Memphis started an education campaign during the holidays to inform first responders about the vaccine on its Facebook page.

It is needed because COVID-19 has infected first responders working for the City of Memphis.

According to public records FOX13 obtained, more than 150 police and firefighters contracted the virus last year, and the city had to investigate more than 1,370 COVID-19 claims from first responders.

RELATED: Vaccine vacancies: Some appointments still available in Shelby County

The president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association has encouraged his members to get vaccinated.

“It is like any place. If it is voluntary, then it is voluntary, and people are making their own decisions,” said Thomas Malone.

Some firefighters are making the decision not to get the vaccine. Figures from the Memphis Fire Department show that on January 15, 2021, nearly 45% of firefighters opted not to be inoculated.

RELATED: SCHD working to vaccinate at least 75% of county; 9% has received COVID-19 vaccine

Malone said he has new data that shows the number of firefighters getting the vaccine has jumped to more than 70%, and more are willing to get their first dose. He admitted some firefighters are reluctant because “the vaccine came out quick. Some people are nay sayers about the federal government and everything else.”

The number of Memphis police officers opposed to getting vaccinated is almost as high as the fire department.

According to the Memphis Police Department, more than a third of police officers - “841 will decline to take the vaccine.”

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FOX13 emailed the Memphis Police Association to ask why so many officers don’t want to get vaccinated. The association replied, saying it is “not aware of reasons why more officers have not taken the COVID vaccinations other than personal preference” and “the MPA is NOT and WILL NOT try to convince or encourage officers to take the vaccine.”

For their safety and the safety of others, Malone hopes opinions will change.

“I would encourage any first responder to get the shot. It is something we need,” Malone told FOX13.

Malone said he believes the numbers of firefighters getting the vaccine will increase because the fire department set up a vaccination site at the old firefighters’ gym during the weekends, making it easier for first responders to get their first and second dose.

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