Longtime Philadelphia police officer, Erin Tokley, was supposed to get a coronavirus vaccine after officers in the area became eligible for shots in late January but unfortunately lost his life after he fell ill with the infection in early February before getting inoculated.
The victim is a 47-year-old father of three who was scheduled to get the vaccine on the day of his death. Tokley, who is referred to as "Toke" by his friends and family, lost his battle against COVID-19 on March 3, marking the Philadelphia Police Department's sixth confirmed coronavirus-related death.
Refusing Vaccine Mandate
The summer has seen the resurgence of coronavirus cases as the national debate over vaccine mandates is pitting officials and members of the public against each other. Many first responders are refusing vaccine requirements despite many of their colleagues being victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tokley's widow, Octavia, was disappointed in how her husband's colleagues were acting in refusing to get vaccinated against the infection. She argued that her husband's life could no longer be saved but theirs still can.
"I don't want to have to be there to support your family for this. Nobody deserves this, especially when it can be prevented," Octavia said during an interview with the Associated Press.
Octavia's husband is one of 132 law enforcement personnel who has died in 2021 due to coronavirus as of Monday. Last month, Florida alone recorded six people to have died in the span of 10 days because of the infection.
In the first half of the year, 71 law enforcement officials in the United States lost their lives because of the virus. The number represents a lower number compared to the 76 that died in 2020 in the same timeframe.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund released the data that showed a total of 241 individuals lost their lives in 2020. It marked down the coronavirus infection as the leading cause of death for law enforcement line-of-duty deaths in that year, US News reported.
Rising Number of COVID-19 Fatalities
Despite the rising number of fatalities, police officers and other first responders are hesitant to get vaccinated amid the region's vaccine mandate. The vaccination rate among police and fire departments is far below the national average of 74% of adults who are at least partially vaccinated.
The situation comes as 1,200 first responders are filing a lawsuit to counter Honolulu's vaccine mandate. Attorneys of the individuals said the lawsuit will be filed on Friday in an attempt to prevent the vaccine mandate that is scheduled to take effect on Monday, Aug. 16. The involved first responders are police officers, firefighters, and other personnel.
"They're just asking for the chance to choose. It's a personal, autonomous, healthcare decision, and everyone should make their own choice, whether or not they want to take a vaccine or not," Attorney Shawn Luiz said.
Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Kaimi Pelekai said that he had to choose between his career and an experimental drug that he had no idea about effects on his body, KHON2 reported.