LA firefighters get Lyft and Airbnb benefits with COVID vaccine

How about an Airbnb gift card with your priority COVID-19 vaccine?

Or a home security system? A new bike ? Or a free ride from Lyft?

These are some of the prices hanging by top Los Angeles Fire Department officials looking to attract an unexpected group: firefighters who don’t want to be shot.

The reluctance of LA firefighters adds to the list of frontline workers in the state refusing to take the vaccine, a trend that health experts say could have serious public health implications. Last week, The Times reported that up to 50% of healthcare workers in some areas refuse to be vaccinated, citing a variety of reasons, including concerns about side effects and skepticism of the science.

Firefighters are on the front lines of the pandemic, many working as paramedics and emergency medical technicians regularly exposed to infected patients. More than 670 firefighters in the city have tested positive so far, a dozen have been hospitalized and two have died, most recently Captain George Roque, 57, a 22-year-old veteran.

To encourage vaccinations, Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas and fire union leaders took the doses at a videotaped event that will be distributed this week. It’s “painless, quick,” he says. “I feel good. Other than this little tenderness, I don’t feel any different.

And for more encouragement, there are the prizes. Vaccinated firefighters participate in a raffle where giveaways include Canary home security cameras, Google Nest entertainment systems, Aventon fixed-gear bikes and gift cards for Airbnb and Lyft, according to a memo distributed by Terrazas Last week.

The donations will be funded by the LAFD Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support the department, according to the note.

The influence campaign and incentives are needed as participation to date is far from universal, even though the firefighters were the first workers in the city to have access to the vaccine. Only 1,000 out of 3,400 were vaccinated in the first week, according to the chief.

“The fire department is a reflection of society,” Terrazas said. “There are people who are reluctant because of the fear of the unknown. “

Vaccine doubt persists despite clear scientific evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, according to experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trials involving tens of thousands of participants were conducted before the injections were approved for wider use, and a vaccine is now recommended for most adults.

Firefighters are among the most at risk of infection. As part of their work answering 911 calls and getting patients to emergency rooms, they come into regular contact with sick patients. Whether or not they are vaccinated, they are required to wear protective equipment at work.

There are signs that doubts are widespread. More than 50% of New York firefighters said they would not take the vaccine, according to an internal survey by a firefighters union.

It’s unclear how widespread this sentiment is in Los Angeles, but senior officials say they are seeing and hearing skeptics in the ranks. Some firefighters say they don’t feel comfortable being among the first to get the vaccine. Others say they’ve been infected before and therefore don’t feel like they need the vaccine.

“There are generational mentalities. The mindset of a 20-year-old midfielder is different from that of a 50-year-old midfielder, ”said Frank Lima, LAFD captain and former president of the grassroots union. firefighters.

On a recent shift at a Hollywood station, on a day when firefighters were encouraged to come to town to get vaccinated, only four of 10 on duty were vaccinated, himself included, said Lima.

He encouraged all union members to get vaccinated, but said he felt they deserved to decide for themselves. “Although we fight tooth and nail to give them every chance,” said Lima, “we respect their right to make this decision.”

Terrazas said he made personal calls for firefighters to get vaccinated.

“I was talking to a firefighter yesterday, and I asked him what his reluctance was. He said he wanted to see if there were any side effects, ”Terrazas said. “I sent him a link to the CDC website. I think he will see that the data shows that it is extremely rare to have a side effect.

Terrazas said he would monitor these numbers closely in the coming weeks. If turnout is low, the chief said he would consider making the vaccine mandatory once the vaccine receives clearance for wider use from federal regulators.

“I would prefer to have voluntary compliance,” Terrazas said. “Ultimately there is the possibility of a warrant.”

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