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Toledo fire chief declines to get COVID-19 vaccine until police are also included in state's program

Chief Brian Byrd encourages his personnel to get the shots, but said he will not get his vaccination as a sign of solidarity with police officers.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Emergency medical service personnel in Lucas County started receiving COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, but Toledo's fire chief will not be one of them. 

Chief Brian Byrd on Monday said that while he encourages his eligible department members to get their vaccines, he is declining to receive the shot as a sign of solidarity with police personnel who are not included in the first round of vaccinations, under the state of Ohio's plan. 

"I am extremely disappointed in the decision made by the Ohio Department of Health to exclude our law enforcement personnel from this phase of the process that includes other first responders," a statement from Byrd read. 

"Our law enforcement personnel ARE first responders! As a result of the decision to exclude our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, I choose to stand in solidarity with them by respectfully declining my scheduled vaccination until they too, as fellow first responders, are given the opportunity to be included in the vaccination process."

Credit: WTOL

At Monday's vaccination clinic, 231 EMS personnel were registered to receive the Moderna vaccine and 178 are set for the jabs on Wednesday. Mercy Health is responsible for vaccinating those first-line employees throughout the county.  

"I was scheduled to get my vaccine but just like in the press release, I respectfully decline it until it's available to our law enforcement officers," Byrd said Monday. 

Police officers are not part of this first wave, and Toledo Police Chief George Kral expressed his displeasure that the state's order of vaccinations has not yet included police. 

"Oftentimes they're (police officers) in some of these homes and in some of these situations even before we get there. And they are truly on the first line, and there are so many contradictions when it comes to the process," Byrd added. 

On Twitter last week, Kral said, "I am very disappointed that the Ohio Department of Health has determined that law enforcement officers do not qualify for the vaccines provided by the CDC for COVID-19 phase 1A. These front line officers are on the street day and night serving and deserve better." 

Byrd agreed with Kral's assessment, stating, "Vaccination of our first responders not only protects them, it improves the level of protection afforded to the community they serve."

Meanwhile, the president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, which represents 475 local firefighters, also encouraged members to receive their vaccinations, but called the exclusion of police personnel in the first round "shameful." 

"The delay in providing all first responders, specifically our law enforcement partners, is irresponsible and shameful," said Daniel J. Desmond. "For as much intimate contact as law enforcement has with the public, law enforcement personnel face even more danger without the protection that can be in place in a static environment. I hope logic, reason, and accountability will prevail and include our law enforcement partners as soon as possible."

Gov. Mike DeWine said that phase one vaccinations are focused on those most at risk and essential healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients. It has not been announced where police officers fall in the vaccination hierarchy. DeWine said that the next people to be inoculated are people 65 and older, K-12 school employees and younger people who have severe developmental disabilities. 

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