Littleton police receiving COVID vaccine, but some decline

City officials decided not to require staff to get the shot

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/11/21

Littleton Police Department officers and staff are beginning to receive COVID-19 vaccines, though nearly a third of the department has indicated they are not interested in receiving it. LPD officers …

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Littleton police receiving COVID vaccine, but some decline

City officials decided not to require staff to get the shot

Posted

Littleton Police Department officers and staff are beginning to receive COVID-19 vaccines, though nearly a third of the department has indicated they are not interested in receiving it.

LPD officers began receiving the vaccine at Littleton Adventist Hospital in the final days of 2020, said department spokesperson Cmdr. Trent Cooper.

“So far so good,” Cooper said. “This is a big step toward getting back to normal.”

Internal surveys showed 70% of department staff are interested in receiving the vaccine, Cooper said. The department consists of 82 sworn officers and roughly 30 non-sworn civilian staff.

“Not everyone wants the shot, and that's OK,” Cooper said. “Some are concerned about the safety of the vaccine, unfounded or not. Others are refusing on ideological or political grounds, but that's their right and it is what it is.”

Studies show people who received the Pfizer vaccine showed fewer serious side effects than those who received the placebo in clinical trials, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numbers for the Moderna vaccine were similar.

Eight officers have tested positive for COVID-19, Cooper said, all during an outbreak that infected 20 city staffers beginning in November. The outbreak was declared resolved on Jan. 2, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE).

Quarantining the infected officers and those they came in contact with didn't hurt the department's level of service, Cooper said, because commanders were able to backfill the roles with school resource officers while schools were shut down.

Cooper said department commanders have expressed concerns that too few officers are interested in getting the vaccine, and even reached out to city officials to ask whether they could mandate the shot, but were told it should remain a private choice.

The decision not to mandate the vaccine fell to City Manager Mark Relph, who said he's confident it was the right call.

“That was one of the first things city leadership talked about when the vaccines began to become available,” Relph said. “As time went on, it became evident it's not worth trying to mandate it. I'm very comfortable with that. I'm confident we'll reach a level of compliance that's more than satisfactory.”

City Attorney Reid Betzing said whether the city could require staff to get the vaccine isn't exactly clear, though there are some legal precedents.

“Nurses can be required to get it, and veterinarians can be required to get rabies vaccines,” Betzing said. “Could we require it under an emergency use authorization, legally? Maybe.”

The CDC has not issued a target percentage of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, though Trump administration vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui said in November the number was likely about 70%.

Cooper said the department will continue to encourage staff to get the vaccine, and will continue to require mask use in city facilities. He added the department has been diligent about COVID mitigation and hygiene procedures.

“At the end of the day, if it's not interfering with their ability to do their job, whether they get the shot is none of our business,” he said.

Relph said the city has taken COVID-19 very seriously, and said while no city staff have died from the virus, several have family members who have died from it.

“We have put huge resources into keep staff safe,” he said, including a large-scale effort to help staff work from home or be protected when working in city facilities.

Relph praised Littleton Adventist Hospital for the vaccine rollout.

“They have been awesome the whole way through,” he said. “Their coordination and scheduling have been nearly flawless. We're very pleased.”

After the police department, Relph said public works and building department staff are likely next in line for the vaccine because they can't do their jobs from home.

“There are still difficult months ahead,” Relph said, “but I'm feeling encouraged.”

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