The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer and the national debate over vaccine requirements have created a fraught situation for the United States' first responders, who are dying in larger numbers but pushing back against mandates.
It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.
The mandates affect tens of thousands of police officers, firefighters and others on the front lines across the country, many of whom are spurning the vaccine. That is happening despite mandates’ consequences that range from weekly testing to suspension to termination — even though the virus is now the leading cause of U.S. law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 132 members of law enforcement agencies are known to have died of COVID-19 in 2021. In Florida alone last month, six people affiliated with law enforcement died over a 10-day period.
Despite the deaths, police officers and other first responders are among those most hesitant to get the vaccine and their cases continue to grow. 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.
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Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency says it has started an expedited evaluation on whether to recommend use of a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech.
And in the United States, two primary anchors of the government’s COVID protection package are ending or have recently ended. Starting today, an estimated 8.9 million people will lose all unemployment benefits. A federal eviction moratorium already has expired.