GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nationally, police and firefighter vaccination rates are low, which some say is a public safety concern. But locally, the numbers are much higher.
More than 70% percent of Grand Rapids’ sworn officers are currently vaccinated and the city’s fire department isn’t far behind at 64%. If the state vaccination numbers matched GRPD’s, masks mandates would be lifted completely in Michigan.
The Grand Rapids Police Department’s incident commander for the COVID-19 response, Capt. Michael Maycroft, is happy with that number, but he wasn’t’ smiling a few months ago.
“October hit and my job became seven days a week, getting calls multiple times a day with officers with symptoms, officers exposed,” Maycroft said.
More than 65 personnel have tested positive for coronavirus and two ended up in the hospital — one in critical condition for days.
“By God’s grace, no one died,” Maycroft said.
Using local health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maycroft worked to separate fact from fiction to help educate his department, so they could be prepared for the vaccine rollout.
“The vast majority of our officers were like, ‘When can I get it?’ Just wanted to get it as soon as they can,” Maycroft said. “It wasn’t the concern so much for them getting the disease and them getting sick. It was getting somebody in the community sick, getting somebody in their family sick or knocking out an entire shift. It wasn’t about them. It was about protecting somebody else, it’s what cops do.”
However nationally, police officer vaccination rates are low. Bigger cities like New York, Atlanta and Las Vegas are reporting less than 40% of their police departments are vaccinated.
Locally in West Michigan, the vaccination rate at the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is around 50%.
Other local departments told News 8 they doesn’t track the numbers or that they couldn’t share the percentage because of privacy concerns.
Some of the public feels that taxpayers should have the right to know if their first responders are vaccinated. Maycroft feels it should be left up to the departments to decide if that information is disclosed.
“Privacy is a big issue … officers don’t lose their rights just because they become police officers. And you got to look at other different jobs out there too where you are dealing with the public and the medical personnel. And how public do you want their records and where do you draw that line?” Maycroft said.
Responding to the lower national numbers for public safety vaccinations, Maycroft says many first responders were infected at the beginning of the pandemic. But GRPD learned from one of their own that the new variants don’t care about previous COVID-19 infections. And you can get the virus again.
“You had a lot of them probably thought I’ve got my natural immunity, why get the vaccine? I’ll save it for someone else. I think as we move forward and we’ve seen over a hundred million people vaccinated and very, very low side effects, as time goes on you, we’ll see more and more people jump in and get it,” Maycroft said. “Even though vaccines are low now, I think it just takes skeptics time to buy it and when they do, they’ll get their vaccine.”