Octavia Tokley said she and her husband, Erin, were grateful this year that their work made her among the first people eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
He was a police officer and at the time she was working remotely as a teacher.
Erin Tokley was planning to receive her first dose on March 11, his wife said. But he never succeeded.
Tokley, a 24-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, died of Covid-19 on March 3. His funeral took place eight days later – the same day he planned to receive the first dose.
Octavia Tokley said the pain she feels after the death of her husband, with whom she has 5-year-old daughter, Amethyst, has been compounded by reluctance to be vaccinated and outright refusal, including among those who work in law enforcement and the unions that represent them.
“I wish they would see this as another means of protection,” she said. “And I wish they would see the vaccine as a way to protect and serve the people they work with.”
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said in a recent mid-year report that Covid-19 is the leading cause of officer deaths nationwide. According to the association, from January 1 to June 30, 71 officers died from Covid-related causes, more than firearms and traffic incidents combined. The number has continued to rise since the report was published, with 133 officers deceased from Covid so far this year, the association said.
Last year, more law enforcement officers died from Covid-19 than from any other cause, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Many police officers, including Erin Tokley, died before a vaccine became widely available or before they could get vaccinated, and while they were doing work that brought them in close contact with their communities as the virus spread. propagated. But others have lost their lives as people across the country, including law enforcement officials, resist vaccination.
Even though Covid-19 surpasses other causes of death for law enforcement officers, many police unions, notably in Chicago, New York and Seattle, have fiercely opposed vaccination warrants.
During a coronavirus briefing on Monday, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said he believed officers’ reluctance to get vaccinated contributed to apparent Covid-related deaths -19 last week from 22 law enforcement officers nationwide.
Last week, firefighters and police from across New Jersey attended a protest against vaccination warrants in Newark, the state’s largest city. Newark mayor Ras Baraka’s vaccine requirement for city workers has been challenged in court by a number of unions representing police and firefighters.
“It really makes me feel very disappointed that they see so many of their siblings in blue dying from this virus and they have the opportunity to stand up for them and live for them in their honor or just for themselves, for their families, but won’t, ”Tokley said.
The Philadelphia Police Department told NBC News in August it did not know how many of its officers had been vaccinated.
Tokley said she and her husband didn’t need any encouragement to get the shot. They had resolved to protect themselves in any way they could.
Since the start of the pandemic, Tokley has said she will send her husband to work every night with a book bag full of gloves, masks and Lysol wipes and spray to try and protect him from the coronavirus.
Amethyst was the first of the three to show symptoms and test positive. Tokley said she and her husband, who had two children from a previous relationship and was a reverend at Calvary Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, suspected he had contracted Covid-19 while on duty.
Amethyst, however, initially blamed herself for her father’s death, Tokley said.
“She knew we found out first and she said, ‘It’s my fault that dad isn’t alive,'” Tokley said.
The doctor who treated Erin while in hospital assured Amethyst that she was not to blame, Tokley said. Erin is one of six Philadelphia police officers who died of Covid-19 on Monday.
Jasmine Hall, whose father, Mark Hall Sr., a New Orleans police officer, died of Covid-19 last year, has become a vaccine advocate in her family and a supporter of vaccine mandates.
“While there are still some groundbreaking cases, it gives you a fighting chance,” said Hall, 29, a prop assistant. “And my father didn’t have a chance to fight.”
Mark Hall Sr. passed away on April 30, 2020, at the age of 53. His family believe the 30-year-old police veteran would have been vaccinated against Covid because he got the flu shot every year.
As part of his work at the start of the pandemic, Hall helped transport the homeless who gathered under the Claiborne Avenue bridge to hotels, his daughter said.
Sonya Hall said her husband went to emergency care four times after suspecting he contracted Covid-19 while on duty, but was denied testing each time due to a policy that limited the number of times a person could be tested.
“I don’t believe he received the best care, but I understand at the time why that was,” Jasmine Hall said. “No one knew what the Covid was and what it does to the body.”
Her father ultimately spent nearly a month in the hospital with the coronavirus. He died months before a vaccine was available.
Les Halles are now all vaccinated against Covid-19. Sonya said that although she is not entirely convinced of the effectiveness of the vaccines, she was vaccinated at the request of her children because she suffers from an autoimmune disease and because 17 people close to her died from Covid-19.
She said her children “are for the vaccines,” including Mark Hall Jr., who graduated from the New Orleans Police Department’s training academy shortly after her father’s death.
The city of New Orleans requires police officers to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
Mark Hall, 24, said he didn’t need the city or the police department to force him to get the vaccine, despite meeting colleagues within the department and people in the city who said him, do not take the virus seriously.
“It doesn’t make me invulnerable,” he said of the vaccine. “But I prefer to have as much protection as possible.”