Many in law enforcement in central NC still not eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – They patrol our streets and maintain order in detention centers, yet many members of law enforcement in North Carolina still haven’t been able to get their COVID-19 vaccine. That is even as first responders like firefighters and paramedics have been able to get their shot.

CBS 17 found out it depends on how a county health department or provider interprets the state guidance. Most of them included firefighters and paramedics in Group 1 as health care workers. Law enforcement is considered part of Group 3.

“A little milder the second time,” Franklin County Sheriff Kent Winstead said.

He said he’s had COVID-19 not once, but twice. It’s also been an ongoing issue for his office.

“Every week, it’s three or four going out and maybe one or two coming back,” Winstead said.

Winstead said he reached out to the county health department and the state, asking that his deputies be put at the front of the line for the vaccine.

“Every wreck, every person that’s down sick, every crime scene, we’re there first. A lot of times we’re doing CPR before EMS gets there,” Winstead said.

Law enforcement had been higher up on the list, then the state revised its guidance. They were moved to Group 3, which is frontline essential workers. They still aren’t eligible for a shot.

CBS 17 reached out to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to find out why. It didn’t respond to the question specifically, instead writing:

“The vaccine prioritization is designed to save lives and prevent spread while vaccine supplies are limited. North Carolina moves through vaccination phases by aligning to federal priorities while giving local health departments and hospitals the needed flexibility to move to the next priority group based on vaccine supply and demand. We are aligned with CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in terms of priority order.”

“There’s some relief, absolutely,” Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said.

Birkhead said about 75 percent of his office is vaccinated. The Durham County Health Department said it allowed deputies to keep appointments that had been made prior to the state’s change in guidance.

“We need to continue to serve the public and we need to do it with as much confidence and as safe as possible and that’s what the vaccine represents to me,” Birkhead said.

Birkhead made headlines last month when he said his office would make vaccines mandatory. He said that remains the case but he’s trying to educate those who are hesitant to get one.

CBS 17 also reached out to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and the Wake Forest Police Department. Both departments said they haven’t been vaccinated.

The Nash County Sheriff’s Office told CBS 17 anyone who wanted a vaccine in the department has been able to get one.

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