NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Hundreds of New York City Emergency Medical Technicians are rolling up their sleeves for the COVID vaccine Wednesday.
As CBS2’s John Dias reports, the shots are not mandatory, but are strongly encouraged, and 450 EMS workers are getting the shot Wednesday at three FDNY facilities.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro says he hopes to have the whole department vaccinated at some point.
As EMTs, there are mournful moments many wish they could forget, especially at the height of the pandemic. But Wednesday is a memory they want to hold onto forever: The moments hundreds of these lifesavers got the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.
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“I felt for them, because we were depending on them so deeply. They were giving it their all. So I really want to thank each and every one of them. You did amazing work. This vaccine is now going to give you what I think is so important, both that health protection but also that peace of mind. Because the vaccine is safe an effective, you’re going to know that you’re going to be OK,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
De Blasio announced EMT Evelyn Ford died Tuesday night after contracting COVID.
“Very, very sad that just now as we finally get to turn the corner, the vaccine has finally arrived, we lose a good woman who served us so well for so long. She is the 12th member of the FDNY/EMS to pass away from COVID,” the mayor said.
“We have had, in a department of 17,000 folks, close to 6,000 of them have had COVID over the past nine months. It’s an incredible number. We have over 600 people right now on medical leave with COVID,” Nigro said.
This comes as the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association said Wednesday the virus is being spread in the firehouse.
“We’ve actually realized we’re spreading this in the firehouse. It’s not actually being spread patient to firefighter or vice versa. We work together for 24 hour shifts, and when you see us riding around in those rigs going to and from a call for a fire, we actually have to take our mask off to put on our SCBA breathing protection. You’re in close quarters sitting face to face with someone else. Spread is very hard to contain in those situations. So I think once guys in the firehouse get more and more comfortable with this, more and more people will get it,” Andrew Ansboro said in an interview on NY1.
“I really hope that the rest of my family here at the department comes on board and gets this vaccine. I understand people are hesitant to get it, but I really hope they follow our suit,” FDNY paramedic Verena Kansog said.
Earlier this month, the Association surveyed its firefighters and found 55% would rather not take the vaccine so they could give it to someone else or because they already had the virus. EMTs were not surveyed.
Meanwhile, there was promising news overnight. The U.S. will be getting more vaccines. The Trump administration reached an agreement to purchase 100 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, expected to be fully delivered by the summer of 2021.
“We are not there yet – months until most of us get vaccinated, and in that time we have to double down on protection protocols,” said former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.
“Giving people a certificate of vaccination. With the certificate, people can travel or enter places more freely. The risk is it will make inequality even worse,” he said.
On Randall’s Island, firefighters and police officers will be the next in line to get the shot. The first day is next week, on Dec. 29.
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