POMONA (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Pomona Fairplex Friday for deputies and other employees.

The clinic, operated in-house by trained sheriff’s department medical personnel and technicians, marked the first of several such clinics being operated by the department internally to expedite inoculations.

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“To date, we have lost 12 members of our department — five sworn and seven members of our professional staff,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at the opening. “I realize that taking the vaccine is a personal choice. However, given that we are living through a historic time, a deadly pandemic that has claimed the lives of many Americans, we are proud to do our part to provide this vaccine to keep our staff and the public safe.”

Villanueva said he has already been fully vaccinated, and while he cannot order staff to get the shot, he urged everyone to do so.

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“Like many of you, I had initial concerns, but quickly realized this is a medical necessity,” he said. “I trust our scientists and doctors who are on the front lines of this deadly pandemic.”

Chief Jack Ewell, who oversees the sheriff’s Special Operations Division, said by vaccinating in-house, county health officials can focus on vaccinating the public.

“One of the larger goals of the entire program is to assist the entire community, not just the members of the sheriff’s department,” Ewell said. “By the sheriff assigning these resources to internally vaccinate all of the sheriff’s department personnel, that has freed up the Department of Public Health of the responsibility of vaccinating up to 18,000 personnel. Because of that, the Department of Public Health now can move toward the larger goal … and that’s to get the vaccine into our underserved communities, where the COVID virus is currently at its peak.”

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)