Letter: Why Hesitate?

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Letter to the Editor

In a recent letter to the County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Villanueva warned that up to 44 percent of his officers would quit rather than obey the supervisors’ mandate that all county staff get vaccinated against COVID-19. Although he is vaccinated, Sheriff Villanueva from the outset said that a county employee’s decision to get vaccinated should be a personal choice and one that should not be punished if the decision is “no.” 

In contrast to Villanueva’s lack of encouragement to his staff to get vaccinated, L.A. City Police Chief Michel Moore has implored his staff to get vaccinated, for their own safety and the safety of the public. Moore instituted a mobile clinic to facilitate his officers getting vaccinated. 

COVID-19 is the leading killer of cops nationwide, killing five times as many officers as gunfire. The rate of vaccine hesitancy for the L.A. city police was initially 20 percent. The percent of physicians nationwide who are unvaccinated is two percent. This two percent to 20 percent to 44 percent gradient in vaccine hesitancy from MD to police officer to sheriff fits a pattern of increasing vaccine hesitancy with decreasing population density and decreasing educational attainment. 

Most physicians work in urban settings and are highly educated. Highly educated urbanites have minimal vaccine hesitancy (eight-11 percent). Police officers work in urban settings and often live in the city in which they work but their educational attainment is typically limited to an associate’s degree. Even urban dwellers with less education tend to have lower rates of vaccine hesitancy (11-14 percent) than rural residents (27 percent). The less populous, unincorporated areas of LA County are the responsibility of the sheriffs. Villanueva is endearing himself to his rural-living deputies and to rural residents of LA County by supporting their right to refuse COVID-19 vaccination. 

Community policing, conflict resolution, value on diversity, equity and inclusion, and support for science are predominant cultural values of urbanites. Gun rights, religious liberty, American exceptionalism, libertarianism and patriarchy are predominant cultural values of rural residents. Look for memes supportive of these rural values and/or hostile to urban values in Villanueva’s public pronouncements as he campaigns for re-election.

William McCarthy