Unvaccinated police, firefighters report low trust in COVID-19 vaccines
Although unvaccinated police officers and firefighters are more likely to develop COVID-19, they are less likely to trust that the vaccines are effective and safe, according to a US study published yesterday in JAMA Network Open.
University of Miami researchers led the study of 1,415 police officers and firefighters from Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, and Utah participating in two studies from January to September 2021. Participants worked at least 20 hours a week in roles requiring them to come within 3 feet of others.
Each week, participants collected nasal specimens and reported any COVID-like symptoms. They also contributed respiratory samples for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and completed quarterly follow-up surveys.
Of the participants, 79% were men, 68% were firefighters, 17% were police officers, and 15% had other roles. The average age was 41.3 years, and 82% completed an attitude survey (363 of 586 [62%] of the unvaccinated and 800 of 829 [97%] of the fully vaccinated). About 41% were unvaccinated.
Of the fully vaccinated, 35% said they trusted the government in terms of COVID-19 vaccines, compared with 12% of the unvaccinated. Among the unvaccinated, 17% believed that the vaccines were effective, versus 54% of the vaccinated. Similarly proportions of each group believed the vaccines were safe (15% vs 54%).
Over the study period, 184 COVID-like illnesses were identified. Police were infected at a rate of 11.9 per 1,000 person-weeks (unvaccinated) and 0.6 per 1,000 (vaccinated). Among firefighters, the rate was 9.0 per 1,000 person-weeks (unvaccinated) and 1.8 (vaccinated).
The researchers noted that police officers and firefighters are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection than healthcare workers but have relatively low vaccine uptake. COVID-19 was the leading cause of work-associated deaths among police in 2021, causing 323 of 482 deaths (67%).
"Our findings suggest that state and local governments with large numbers of unvaccinated first responders may face major workforce disruptions due to COVID-19 illness," the authors wrote. "Governments should consider vaccine mandates with regular testing and alternative work assignments for unvaccinated workers."
Jul 19 JAMA Netw Open research letter
Influenza surveillance systems may have caught initial COVID-19 activity
An increased number of cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) that tested negative for influenza were present in global influenza surveillance networks early in the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of 13.3 weeks before the first reported COVID-19 peaks in 16 of the 28 countries included in a study published today in PLOS Medicine.
To conduct the study, researchers looked at outliers in influenza-negative ILI surveillance networks in 2020 compared to trends over the previous 5 years in 28 countries that have established ILI surveillance, using data from the World Health Organization Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS).
During the week of Jan 13, 2020, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, and Spain all showed ILI outliers. During the week of Mar 9, 2020, the United States and the United Kingdom showed outliers, which was 4 to 6 weeks before the first recorded peak of COVID-19 activity.
Bolivia, Colombia, India, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Nepal, and Peru demonstrated a lag between the first detected outlier and reported COVID-19 peak of greater than 12 weeks. Only in three countries—Germany, Madagascar, and Uganda—did the first detected outlier in 2020 occur after the first reported COVID-19 peak.
"In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we found increases in cases of non-influenza respiratory illness before the first reported major outbreaks of COVID-19, suggesting COVID-19 may have spread much faster than initially reported globally," said Natalie Cobb, PhD, of University of Washington, first author of the study, in a press release.