ATLANTA - First responders have been on the frontlines serving the public amid the coronavirus pandemic and local law enforcement officials believe they should be among the first group to get vaccinated.
South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows told FOX 5's Deidra Dukes, "At one point this year, we lost nearly 10 percent of our personnel from quarantining or the infection of the virus, so I think it's extremely important from a public safety standpoint that we be included in the first distribution of this vaccine."
Chief Meadows was one of those in the department who contracted COVID-19.
Butch Ayers, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the virus has taken a toll on law enforcement agencies across the country.
"There's not a department in the state that hasn't been affected by the COVID virus. As a matter of fact, out of the at least 15 line-of-duty deaths in the state of Georgia this year, eight of those, or 53 percent, were COVID-related. On the national level, of the 265 officers who've died this year 58 percent, or 155, are COVID-related," Ayers said.
On Tuesday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel recommended health care workers and residents in long-term health care facilities be the first to receive the vaccines.
"I understand the need to take care of the most vulnerable people in our community, I guess what I don't understand is how first responders aren't part of that equation", said Meadows.
It's ultimately up to the individual states to make the call, and local law enforcement officials hope the Georgia Department of Public Health will include police and other first responders in Phase 1a vaccine distribution.
"We're like health care workers as well. We didn't take off, we can't protect a community and stuff from inside of our homes, so just keep us in mind when they are making decisions about administering or distributing the vaccine," said Ayers.
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