The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations that Denton police officers and firefighters have received is approximately 50 percent or lower across the departments, mirroring the findings of an NBC 5 investigation of the metroplex.
Thirty-one percent — or 20 employees out of a 65-person team — of the UNT Police Department is vaccinated. As first responders, the department was offered limited vaccines from a local hospital. Additional employees plan to get vaccinated once more doses become available, Police Chief Ed Reynolds said.
While these workers are members of the 1A phase with priority access to the vaccine, both personal choice and limited access have impacted their vaccination rates. None of the aforementioned departments require employees to get vaccinated, which is standard across Dallas-Forth Worth.
“I believe it is an individual health decision,” Reynolds said. “But I was personally vaccinated and have encouraged our employees to get vaccinated as well. Although the vaccinations are voluntary, it’s difficult to say what our final numbers will be since so far availability has been limited and we have not yet had enough vaccines to offer them to every employee.”
Over half of the Denton Fire Department’s firefighters have been vaccinated, at around 100 out of 188. More plan to be vaccinated over the next few weeks, Public Information Officer David Boots said.
“Chief [Kenneth Hedges] believes that it’s a personal choice and I completely agree,” Boots said. “We respect people’s right to choose.”
The Denton Police Department has not held a formal vaccine clinic. At the start of the year, approximately 50 percent of officers expressed the intention to be vaccinated when polled anonymously.
“We do not have any exact figures at this time, as we are not currently mandating that officers disclose their vaccination status,” Public Information Officer Allison Beckwith said.
Denton’s vaccination numbers are lower than some neighboring cities’ rates, with the Dallas Police Department, Frisco Fire Department and Plano Police Department all reporting at 60 percent. The Plano Fire Department has 72 percent of employees vaccinated, according to NBC.
Denton departments have higher rates than the Allen Police Department, which has 26 percent of officers vaccinated. The city’s average of half of the employees vaccinated or lower is similar to the data reported by Richardson, Irving, Allen and Frisco police departments and Richardson emergency medical services, according to NBC.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to the North Texas Daily’s requests for comment.
Featured Image: Denton police vehicles can be seen parked behind the Denton Police Department building on March 9, 2021. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia