By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat and Miami-Dade co-sponsored an event Thursday at the FTX Arena offering first responders and the general public vaccines against the deadly coronavirus.

One veteran police major told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench he received an inoculation after speaking with medical experts and his father.

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“Like many people, I’m sure the reason to not get vaccinated is the hesitance in not knowing the long term effects the vaccines can cause. But after speaking with medical experts in the field and what catapulted my decision was what happened to my father. He just went through COVID. He didn’t die thank God but he didn’t have a good run in with COVID. After asking him if he would have gotten vaccinated knowing this he said he would that made my decision,” said 48-year-old Major Al Guerra, a veteran of 23 years at the Miami Police Department.

Guerra added, “I think either way you are taking a risk. So if you are concerned about the vaccine and the long term effect of the result of the vaccine the other side is what if you get COVID and you don’t fare well. We see many law enforcement officers succumbing to death from the Coronavirus.”

CBS4 followed Major Guerra as he received his inoculation.

The Miami Heat said they were inspired after the Association of the Miami-Dade Chiefs of Police COVID-19 Committee issued a plea to members of law enforcement and corrections to get vaccinated against this potentially, deadly disease.

The Heat said they wanted to see law enforcement protected so they can protect the community. The event was open to anyone 12 years and older. Those under 18 had to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were being administered.

A second event is being held October 7 for the second doze of the Pfizer vaccine.

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El Portal Police Chief David Magnusson is a COVID-19 Committee Chairperson for the Association of the Miami-Dade Chiefs of Police.

He said, “More law enforcement professionals have died from COVID in the line of duty than those who have died from traffic crashes and shootings combined in the last two years. Here we have something that can nullify those line of duty deaths and sadly the majority are not taking them and I am speaking to my brothers and sisters in corrections, even more so because they are inside.”

Magnusson said, “Here is a situation where you can protect yourself. You have the time to get the shot and protect yourself and move forward. You are consciously right now putting on your vest and buckling up and now taking the vaccine. All three steps can save your life.”

It is a challenge for police chiefs.

In South Miami, 40% of the officers are unvaccinated. Chief Rene Landa told D’Oench that while 34 of his officers are vaccinated, 22 are not.

“Vaccines are for the protection of our officers,” he said on September 9th. “That is the priority. They are out there protecting our neighborhoods and we need to protect them.”

In Coral Gables, Police Chief Ed Hudak has urged his officers to get vaccinated.

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On September 2, he said “COVID is killing more cops than all the violence throughout our country geared towards officers. The numbers are spiking. Look around the state. Six, seven, eight of our officers passing away. This is a sobering time. We are not talking about politics. We are talking about life and death.”

Peter D'Oench