Utah first responders, frontline workers getting vaccinated against COVID-19

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Intermountain Healthcare is the latest organization to announce COVID-19 vaccine requirements for all of its employees. Caregivers – along with several other professions – remain on the front lines, working closely with people in Utah’s communities.

All Intermountain employees are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by February, as officials said they’re complying with the federal vaccination mandate from the Biden Administration.

“Our mission is helping people live the healthiest lives possible and we will comply with these new standards, just like we comply with current procedural standards and other federal standards to provide that care,” said Dr. Mark Briesacher, Intermountain’s Chief Physician Executive.

He said 80% of all caregivers have received the shot, and the organization hopes to work with those who are hesitant.

“I think the most important thing in terms of what we know today is that we’re going to really lean in and be with them in that process and help them step through it in a way that’s best for them,” Dr. Briesacher said.

Along with caregivers, police and firefighters work in close contact with the community.

Salt Lake City Police Department’s Sgt. Mark Wian said while they do not require employees to be vaccinated, they encourage it.

About 80% of the department is fully vaccinated, and he said it’s likely due to people understanding the nature of their job.

“As first responders, police officers, we have close and frequent contact with the community and so across the country, COVID-19 has created a tremendous operational difficulty for law enforcement across the board. For Salt Lake City Police Department, is clearly not immune to it,” Sgt. Wian said. “The pandemic forced police agencies across the country to take drastic actions to protect our officers and the public so that we can still continue to provide that service.”

Firefighters also respond to emergencies and work closely with the public. And Unified Fire Authority’s Patrick Costin said that’s why 91% of their firefighters willingly got the vaccine.

“That’s again why it’s so important we take extra precautions with masks, vaccination, frequent hand washing, things like that just to keep the public safe, but also to keep our own families safe,” he said.

Costin said while the vaccine is not required, they do ask firefighters to fill out an exemption form if they do not get the shot.

The Utah Department of Health continues to encourage coronavirus vaccination. Spokesperson Charla Haley said the more people that get vaccinated, the more people can be protected from the virus.

“The interesting thing about COVID-19 is you can’t really tell where you’re going to get it from. And situations that seem like they may be somewhat safe, may turn out not to be,” she said. “So, again, we encourage as many people who can to go get the vaccine to protect yourself and those around you.”

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