CINCINNATI — With two COVID-19 vaccines now authorized by the FDA for emergency use, one from Moderna and one from Pfizer, the shots will soon be administered to first responders in an effort to reduce community spread and save lives.
There’s enough of the Moderna vaccine for every member of the Cincinnati Fire Department, and that vaccination process will take place sometime next week.
“We adapt. We overcome. We do what we need to do,” Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 48 president Matt Alter said.
That mantra, which has long been the duty of every firefighter, now has a double meaning – surviving the pandemic.
“Not even during the flu season did we ever see ... entire firehouses and entire companies of members taken out like we have with the coronavirus, so it’s been challenging,” Alter said.
Their job makes socially distancing difficult, which is why vaccine availability is key. Alter said from the onset of COVID-19 to October, the CFD recorded 22 cases. Then in October alone, there were 23 new cases, with 72 in November and 74 so far in December.
“Are we going to get this from patients?” Alter asked. “Are we going to give this to patients?”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state is prioritizing vaccination to address this exact concern.
“This vaccine is a scarce resource and we have to deploy that in as strategically smart way as we can to save lives,” DeWine said.
Vaccinations for first responders will begin next week, with a specific set of paramedics trained in how to give the shot. The work is being done in conjunction with the health department.
“Firefighters that are on duty that have chosen to get the vaccine will be able to come down on duty as a group,” Alter said. “The firetruck they will come in – they’ll be able to pull in, have to fill out the required paperwork from the FDA, get the vaccine.”
Each firefighter given the vaccine will then be monitored for a period of time to make sure no one experiences any adverse side effects – a concern that some firefighters do share along with the general public.
“We’re a microcosm of larger society, so I think there’s a lot of questions out there, and rightfully so,” Alter said.
Alter said he believes the tide is turning.
“We encourage our members to talk to their own doctor, see what they say and make the decision accordingly, but do it based on fact – not out of fear and not out of assumption.”
Any firefighters who choose not to get the vaccine at this point will have opportunities to do so at a later date.