COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Employees of the Columbia Police Department and Boone County Sheriff's Department have been getting the first in the series of COVID-19 vaccine this week.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department and Boone Hospital Center are helping to vaccinate local law enforcement.
Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Boone Hospital Center Dr. Robin Blount said the hospital has already seen officials from around the county come to get vaccinated.
"I know we've had sheriff's deputies through here, corrections officers. We've reached out to the police departments in Hallsville and Ashland and Centralia and have had some of them respond and come get vaccinated," she said.
The first officers with the Columbia Police Department received vaccines Wednesday.
"We've started scheduling yesterday to have officers vaccinated. They can either go on their own, or we're allowing them to go on duty on certain days when staffing allows," said Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones.
Blount said it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get the vaccine.
"If they can swing by here and get a shot on their lunch shift, we've been doing things like that, so even people that are on duty can certainly get by here and get their vaccine," Blount said.
The department has already had 90 people sign up saying they want to get the vaccine. As of Wednesday 12 had received the first vaccine, and CPD expected 13 more to get the vaccine through Saturday.
Brian Leer with the Boone County Sheriff's Department said several members of the department had already gotten the vaccine.
"It is not mandatory; however, we have had great interest from our staff and many are getting the COVID vaccination," he said in a statement.
Blount said Boone Hospital Center has been working to divide and conquer the work of getting the first tiers in the state's vaccination plan inoculated.
"We have just been working through those tiers from December 17th until now when we started getting vaccines, and so we just feel like it's our community mission to help out with that," she said.
The police department has had to work to prevent too many people from being out of work if they show side effects from the second vaccine once those begin. It is also allowing staff to go on their own to get the vaccine if they wish.
"We as an organization are trying to facilitate scheduling so that they can go on the last day that they work and not have everybody go get the shot at the same time," Jones said.
Under city policy, any employee who shows symptoms of COVID-19 is required to be out from work for at least 10 days. Jones said that could change as some employees start to get the vaccine, either by department or city-wide.
"We are reviewing the policy for the city to see how the administration of the vaccine will affect the city's policy and people being symptomatic," he said. "Also we're going to have to see what the data says when people are vaccinated, and how frequently they need to be vaccinated, and those types of things before we make any changes."
Blount said out of the people who work for Boone Hospital Center that have been vaccinated, they have not seen many people show side effects from the vaccine.
Jones said it is too soon to tell what vaccinations beginning could mean in the short-term. He said officers will still wear PPE, wash their hands and sanitize more often.
"I don't know what that's going to mean for community events. I like to be face-to-face with the public. I want officers to have those relationships, and I'm hopeful that the vaccine will give us that opportunity again," he said.
Jones said he thinks the vaccine will provide hope for some people things will begin to return to normal, but others worry about the vaccine and unknowns.
"How long it lasts, whether they can transmit it if they don't show symptoms. There's a lot of questions so we're going to proceed cautiously and make sure that we follow the data," he said.