For today’s Daily COVID-19 Report, PERF spoke with police executives from three agencies in which employees have started receiving the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Employees in all three agencies started receiving the vaccine on December 28, and these officials spoke with PERF on January 6.

Austin, TX Chief Brian Manley

We were given the opportunity to administer the Moderna COVID vaccine to our employees at the end of December. The Austin/Travis County area received our allotment of the vaccine, and based upon the state’s priority tiering system, the plan was put together for administering it to first responders. The first tier was our medical professionals on the front line in the hospitals. As we moved into the later tiers it got into our fire/EMS, and ultimately our law enforcement as well.

In Austin we have a shared public safety wellness center, which serves both the physical and mental health of police, fire, and EMS personnel. That location was used for the vaccinations. We put together a schedule that allowed members of the police, fire, and EMS to sign up for a four-day window. We kept the vaccine clinic open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It was on a first-come, first-served basis for any members of the public safety agencies who wanted to sign up.

We had initially put together a tiered plan that would have officers in front-line service jobs receive the vaccine first, prior to officers or civilians who were behind the scenes. We also included our civilians in front-line positions, such as our crime scene technicians and victims service counselors. We had a plan where these were tiered and prioritized.

But when the vaccine became available, the direction we received from our health and wellness center was to just have it on a first-come, first-served basis. So employees who serve more in the background had the opportunity to get the vaccine at the same time as those who were on the front lines. As agencies roll out their vaccine plans, they need to consider how they want to address that within their organization.

We’ve since made changes to that, and when we put future allotments out to the department, they will go to front-line personnel first. Then our support personnel will have the opportunity, once all of the front line has been vaccinated.

This is 100% voluntary. We have encouraged our members to do their homework, understand what the vaccine is and isn’t, and make an informed, educated decision on whether it’s right for them.

As of right now, I have 541 officers and 240 civilians who have been vaccinated. [The department has approximately 2,600 sworn and support personnel.] So we’re well on our way, but, being a large agency, we still have many more officers who will need to be vaccinated.

We partnered with our union on speaking with their membership. Our union president was public in getting his vaccination, and encouraged the members to get the vaccination, do their homework, and be informed.

The number of officers who have already been vaccinated and the number waiting to be vaccinated tell me that they’re taking this seriously and see this as a tremendous opportunity to be protected while they protect the community as we get through this pandemic.

Janesville, WI Chief David Moore

We’re a department of about 105 sworn and 130 total employees. We were preparing for either dispensing the vaccine through city hall or hiring a hospital as a vendor. But we have a very good working relationship with a local hospital, and they called us last Thursday around 5:00 p.m. and said that if we could be up there by 6:00, they’d start giving officers the vaccinations.

Fortunately, we have a good system for notifying our officers. We sent a call out to all of our sworn officers, and by 7:00 p.m. we had 56 officers vaccinated. And yesterday we got a notice from the hospital that we could stop by anytime tomorrow and they would have enough vaccinations to take care of the rest of the officers. As of tomorrow, any officer who wishes to have the vaccination should have received it. We’re receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

So my suggestion to other police departments is to be prepared for the unexpected, because you don’t know how these vaccines may become available. Once they’re delivered and taken out of their refrigeration, there’s a limited shelf life, and that helped us.

From the start of the pandemic, I assigned a lieutenant to look at all the data about vaccinations and the pandemic and boil it down to a single-page email for officers, to keep them well-informed about what’s going on nationally and locally. We started out with a list of officers who would accept the vaccine that was around that 80% level. As we shared the science, we’re now above 90% who wish to take the vaccine, and I expect that to increase. We’re not forcing anyone to take the vaccine, but we’re certainly urging it. All the ranking members of the department are taking the vaccination. But it’s really a personal decision, and we’re trying to provide as much accurate and scientific information as we can so they can make an informed decision.

New Castle County, DE Major Wendi Feeser

We’re a little unique in that we reside in a public safety building, so our communications, EMS, and police personnel are all in the same building. The state Department of Health has been very active about letting us know an approximate timeline of when they expected to receive the vaccine and get it to us, and they were communicating with all the chiefs. So we knew approximately 3-4 weeks prior that we expected to receive the vaccine sometime around Christmas.

That gave us ample time to reach out to every sworn officer who works for us and ask them if they wanted the vaccine. Unfortunately, our numbers are nowhere near the other two departments on this call. We have around 380 officers, and only about 135 initially opted to take the vaccine.

We put our order in to the state, and they sent us 150 vaccines. We have paramedics housed in our building with us, so they were able to administer the vaccine. We didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. We have a mobile hospital in our rear parking lot. All the vaccines were administered from there, and we had a drive-through. Officers would pull up in their cars, a paramedic would hand them a clipboard with information, they would fill it out in their car, then a paramedic would come get them. They would come into the mobile hospital, receive the vaccine, and go back to their car to sit for 15-20 minutes post-vaccination, in case they had any issues. A paramedic would roam car-to-car to check on everyone.

When we contacted everyone who had opted to take the vaccine to schedule their vaccinations, about 10 told us they no longer wanted the vaccination. I reached out to the union president and asked him to do another push for vaccinations. With his push, we got another 15 to take it. So we ended up vaccinating 145 officers.

I was involved every step of the way, and stayed at the vaccination site to talk to the officers about how they were feeling. If they were having doubts, we would have conversations, and they had access to the paramedics for information or questions.

The state will contact us to let us know when officers will receive their second shot. We schedule that for them.

We make every attempt to vaccinate them when we know they will be going off for a couple days, in case they have any side effects. We try to vaccinate them the last day of their shift or the first of their four days off.

We have around 60-70 civilian personnel, and we were able to vaccinate 8 of them, so that the leftover vaccines wouldn’t go to waste. We did that based upon age, ability to telecommute, and underlying health conditions.

We had a plan in place when we thought everyone would want the vaccine. We were going to do our patrol officers first. But we didn’t need to use that plan because we were able to get enough vaccines for everyone who wanted them.

If we get another round of vaccines, I think more officers will take it. Some say they’re waiting to see how the first round went and if there were any big side effects. Because we were one of the first agencies to receive it, I think some wanted to wait and hope that another round will come in.

The low percentage of officers wanting the vaccine seems to be the trend in Delaware. The state union president is a lieutenant in my department, and he got some numbers from around the state. We’re at about 35-36%, and that seems to be the average or a little better than average. One department is predicting 50%, but they haven’t received the vaccine yet. And a lot of smaller agencies downstate are considerably less than 35%.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.