Following are some of the key findings of a new PERF survey of member agencies about their plans and expectations regarding coronavirus vaccines.

  • Police executives anticipate that one or more Coronavirus vaccines will be available for their members no later than January 2021.
  • Very few police chiefs will mandate that their personnel get vaccinated, but most expect that the majority of their members will choose to take the vaccine.
  • And in a strong show of support for the vaccines, the overwhelming majority of chiefs and sheriffs say they will get vaccinated themselves.

How the Data Were Collected

On Monday, December 14, PERF sent a 13-question survey to the chief executives of all PERF member agencies. By December 18, 193 responses had been received.

Respondents represented a cross-section of agencies. Almost one-quarter of them had fewer than 50 sworn officers, 44% had 50-249 officers, 13% had 250-499 officers, and 19% were large agencies with 500 or more officers.

The vast majority of responses were received after the FDA had granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, but before the agency had taken formal action on the Moderna vaccine.

When Will Vaccines Likely Be Available?

The majority of agencies (56%) said they had received information from state authorities about the distribution of vaccines to their personnel. Most agencies anticipate that vaccines will be available to their members within the next several weeks.

Of the 109 agencies that provided information, 19 said they expected a vaccine to be available in December and 58 said in January. Another 13 said February. 14 agencies indicated they didn’t know when a vaccine would be available to their members.

Will Vaccines Be Mandated?

As coronavirus vaccines are approved and distribution ramps up, there is a growing debate over whether some people – in particular, essential personnel such as health care workers, teachers, and first responders – will be mandated to get the vaccine.

A large majority of law enforcement agencies responding to the PERF survey (72%) indicated they would not mandate vaccination. Only 3% said they would make it mandatory, and another 25% were undecided. Some of the agencies that are undecided explained that they were waiting for guidance from their local officials or state authorities regarding vaccine mandates. 

Agencies were also asked if they would require employees who choose not to be vaccinated to sign some type of waiver. 13% said they would, 22% said they would not, and most (65%) said they were undecided on a waiver.

How Many Agency Members Will Likely Get Vaccinated?

Police executives anticipate that the majority of their members will choose to get vaccinated. 31% predicted that more than three-quarters of their members will get the vaccine, and another 47% expected that between half and three-quarters will be vaccinated. Only about 22% expected that fewer than half of their members would elect to be vaccinated.

When asked whether they themselves will get vaccinated, a large majority (86%) of respondents said they would. Only 3% (a total of 5 respondents) said they would not, and another 11% indicated they would prefer not to say whether they will get the vaccine.

Some respondents said it was important for police executives to get vaccinated – and to be very public about it – as an example for members of their agencies and the community at large.

Encouraging Their Personnel to Get Vaccinated

About two-thirds of agencies said they planned to launch an internal information campaign encouraging their personnel to get vaccinated. Another 25% of agencies were undecided, and 9% said they had no plans for a messaging campaign.


Just over one-third of respondents indicated they are working with their labor unions or associations on the vaccine distribution process. 45% said they were not currently working with their labor representatives, and 21% said they did not have a labor union or association.

Several respondents said they are in early conversations with labor leaders and expect those discussions to accelerate once they have more information about the vaccination process.

Agencies that are working with their unions are coordinating the dissemination of information about the vaccine, the distribution process, and guidelines for those who choose not to take it. Several respondents said they are focusing on producing accurate, up-to-date information about vaccines and possible side effects, so that agency members can make informed decisions.

Some unions are polling their members about vaccines and providing that information to agency leaders. Several agencies are collaborating with their unions to encourage members to get vaccinated, and one respondent said their agency is working on an incentive, such as additional time off, for personnel who choose to be vaccinated. 

One of the issues that police leaders anticipate having to address with their unions is how to schedule and prioritize vaccinations within their agencies. Some said they may stagger vaccinations within units, in case members experience any side-effects.

Another issue is what to do with members who choose not to receive the vaccine.  For example, will there be a need to change assignments or impose certain restrictions on those individuals? Also, will leave time be impacted if members choose not to get vaccinated but become infected later on?

Helping to Secure Vaccines

Survey respondents were also asked if they anticipate having a role in securing and administering coronavirus vaccines in their communities. Just under half (44%) said they will likely have a role, 31% said they would not, and 25% said they did not know at this time. Among those agencies that anticipate having a security role, most expected it to be minimal.

The most common role that agencies expect to play is security and traffic control at vaccination sites. This is similar to the support many agencies have been providing at COVID-19 testing sites in their communities. In some agencies, this has been an extra-duty assignment, and officers have been paid overtime.

Some agencies indicated that they may help in providing escorts and security for the transport of vaccines to the vaccination sites. Others said they are providing advice to health partners such as hospitals and pharmacies on security planning and procedures.

A few respondents mentioned concerns about demonstrations at vaccinations sites by individuals or groups that oppose vaccines in general, as well as people showing up and demanding to be vaccinated. They said it will be important for police leaders to have open lines of communication with local health officials on where and when the vaccines will be stored and distributed, so that police agencies can plan accordingly.

Other Considerations

  • A few respondents to PERF’s survey said they are actively working to get law enforcement personnel moved higher up on the priority list for vaccinations, as officers continue to face a risk of exposure in their day-to-day work.
  • Other respondents said it is critical that some non-sworn positions such as call-takers and dispatchers be given priority for vaccination, because their specialized skills cannot be learned quickly. “I can't replace a dispatcher if they go down sick as easily as I can replace a police officer,” one respondent said.
  • One sheriff who responded to the survey said that determining how and when jail inmates will be vaccinated is a critical concern for agencies that have jails and lockups.


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.