POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In the wake of his office’s first COVID-19 death, Sheriff Grady Judd is making an impassioned plea for people to get vaccinated against the virus.

“This virus is real and it’s deadly and Christopher is the poster child for how deadly it is. He was only 32,” he said.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Christopher Broadhead died Monday after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19.

Courtesy – Polk County Sheriff’s Office

Before he got sick, he was a healthy deputy who had served for a decade, Judd said.

Sheriff Judd would not disclose whether Broadhead was vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I have the vaccination. I encourage everyone to get the vaccination that’s eligible. My wife and I got the vaccination on day one when we were eligible,” he said.

Sheriff Judd is not aware of how many members of his staff are vaccinated and does not support a vaccine mandate.

“I’m a real staunch supporter of people’s individual rights. I wish they would take the vaccine. I’m not going to mandate it. I think that’s government overreach,” he explained.

Fifty of his 2,000 employees currently have COVID-19, with as many as five currently in the hospital. One civilian employee is on a ventilator, according to Judd.

The sheriff said he was directly exposed to four COVID-19 positive people in the span of three weeks. One person he was exposed to ended up hospitalized. Another person died.

“I am absolutely sure that the vaccine either saved my life or kept me from being sick,” he said.

The sheriff, a known conservative, urges people to listen to their doctors, not politicians, when deciding whether to get the shot.

“It’s a sad set of circumstances that from the president on down we politicized this very dangerous disease. Shame on all of them,” he said.

When asked to clarify, the sheriff said he meant both former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden.