COCHISE COUNTY — The majority of personnel at the two largest local law enforcement agencies in Cochise County have not gotten the COVID vaccine thus far, officials at both agencies said recently.
It’s not clear whether the employees — both sworn and civilian personnel — have trepidations about the Moderna vaccine and its possible effects, or they simply don’t want a shot in the arm.
Regardless, at both Sierra Vista Police and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, the percentage of those who either declined the opportunity to get inoculated, or did not respond to their agencies when asked if they wanted the vaccine, are 56 percent and about 60 percent, respectively.
“The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has requested information from our employees with respect to the COVID vaccination and opting in/out as it becomes available,” said Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas. “We have an estimated 39% positive responses for employees who have requested access to take the vaccine.”
Capas said she doesn’t know how many employees have been inoculated, but said the 60 percent figure is for those employees — both sworn and civilian — who have either declared no interest in getting inoculated, or did not respond to the agency at all.
There have also been some employees who expressed doubts about the vaccine, Capas said.
“As appears to be the case nationally, we have heard some concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccination for a variety of reasons to include the rapid development of the vaccine and the content of the vaccine itself,” Capas said.
“After several requests for updated information related to who wanted to participate in the vaccination program, the number of employees did increase perhaps after more personal research, review of scientific information, and/or knowing a friend or family member who has suffered from contacting COVID.”
The situation was about the same at Fort Huachuca, where roughly 50 percent of the troops — most of them younger soldiers — declined to get the vaccine, said Commanding General Tony Hale.
The general recently echoed what Capas said is happening across the country — a fear of the unknown. Hale posted a video on the installation’s Facebook page when he got inoculated to encourage others to do the same.
Aside from Hale, other top commanders such as Command Sergeant Major Warren “Kelly” Robinson and Lt. Col. Wendy Gray, the commander of the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center on post, have received their shots and have also talked about it on Facebook.
Gray has now hosted two episodes of COVID Extreme, a brief video presentation on Facebook where she talks about the virus and interviews other personnel from the installation. Gray, who is also a nurse practitioner, has talked about the fear and doubt surrounding the vaccine.
But in her last COVID Extreme video she said the sure way to obtain “herd immunity” and achieve the “new normal” is for the majority of the population to get vaccinated.
Hale recently told the Herald/Review that many soldiers at the installation have said they’re afraid of getting the vaccine because they believe it was developed too quickly.
They’re not alone in their concerns. A survey taken by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) of 2,000 members of the New York City Fire Department, according to a report by ABC News. The results showed that 55% of participants said they would not get inoculated.
But Judy Lynn, director of Cochise County Emergency Management, said it could be difficult to gauge the declination rate in Cochise County because the area is not receiving enough doses of the Moderna vaccine for every first responder who is eligible.
“...Since there is still a demand (as evidenced by how quickly they fill up and the numerous calls I receive each day) for vaccine appointments for first responders, it is hard to tell what the declination rate will end up being when all is said and done,” Lynn said.
“I have seen the (declination) rate go down in some cases as personal experiences with the virus or the vaccine drive a change of heart and as more data is published on the effects of the vaccine.”
At Fry Fire District, Chief Mark Savage said that initially, only about 40 percent of the employees were interested in getting inoculated. However that number jumped to just over 65 percent when personnel saw that many of their peers had gotten the shot “without any adverse reactions,” Savage said.
Most emergency medical technicians at Arizona Ambulance — about 80 percent — have gotten inoculated because they’ve seen firsthand what it’s like to be hit with the virus.
Director Chris Alleman, who is also the fire chief in Tombstone, said Arizona Ambulance transports patients for Canyon Vista Medical Center in Sierra Vista, for Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee and for Copper Queen Community Hospital Douglas Rural Health Clinic.
“During the (COVID) peak in December in January, six out of 10 patients we transported had COVID,” Alleman said. “Our personnel have to ride in the back of a small ambulance with patients for two or three hours sometimes.”