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Nearly 200 San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel decline COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 09:06:52-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Almost 200 members of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department have declined to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell told ABC 10News that 952 personnel have been vaccinated. He reported that 721 are firefighters, 166 are lifeguards and 65 are non-sworn employees.

Chief Stowell added that a total of 196 Fire-Rescue personnel have declined to get the vaccine. "That's [due to] everything from personal opinions to underlying medical conditions or concerns that they have. It can also be that if they tested positive, they have to wait 90 days so they will have declined during that time," he said.

The department reports that those who've declined the shot represent about 17% of its workforce. "That's actually lower than expected and if we compare ourselves to any of the other fire departments and other public safety agencies, they're actually much higher," he added.

According to the department, 101 firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19.

The department has tried to vaccinate employees while they're on-duty, but Chief Stowell said that a small portion have been paid overtime to get vaccinated outside of their scheduled shifts.

While Los Angeles Fire Department has offered raffle prizes to incentivize reluctant firefighters to get vaccinated, Chief Stowell said that San Diego has no plans to do the same. "We're actually very pleased and we knew that there was going to be some reluctance at the beginning of this and we did everything we could to get the information out [and] educate everyone so that they could make informed decisions," he added.

San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel are expected to start receiving their second dose of the vaccine this coming Thursday. Chief Stowell said that firefighters who've declined to get the vaccine will not be required to disclose that to patients. He stated that regardless of whether firefighters have been vaccinated, they will have to wear the same protective gear.