EDITORIAL: First responders should be near top of the list for covid vaccine

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

If you’re injured or sick and you can’t get yourself to the hospital, or if your house catches fire and you need to be carried out, the first face you’re going to look into is likely to belong to a firefighter or EMT.

So three things come to mind when one considers the priorities for the distribution of the new covid vaccine.
Who is most likely to spread covid to sick and injured people in an emergency situation? Who is most likely to interact with doctors and patients in hospitals when responding to calls? And who are the people you’d least want to be sidelined by the virus and therefore unavailable to respond to your emergency?

The answer to all three questions: First responders.

Yet under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s current covid-vaccination distribution plan, firefighters and some emergency first responders might not be able to get vaccinated until toward the end of Phase 1 of the distribution or possibly until Phase 2.

Obviously, doctors, nurses and long-term residential home patients belong in that first list.

The medical professionals are the ones treating the covid patients in the hospitals, and even the absence of one of those professionals can put lives at risk.

And given that the elderly and those with health problems are most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus, they, too, should be prioritized.

But in many circumstances, it’s the first responders who will see these patients first, often in very close, cramped quarters.

It’s ambulance workers who will transport a sick and elderly resident from their home to a long-term care facility.

It’s a firefighter who’s going to be assisting the EMTs, and it’s a firefighter who is going into homes for everything from a stove fire to a CO alarm going off.

It’s also the emergency responders who are in short supply in many communities, particularly in rural areas.

Their departments often can’t spare even one individual for a day, much less a few weeks. Heck, we even argued in an editorial recently that first responders should be eligible for special relief from jury duty because of the volunteer shortage and the critical need for them to be available at all times.

So it’s very clear that along with the others already on the list, EMTs and firefighters need to be moved to the top tier of those receiving the covid vaccine.

In a show of bipartisan local support, Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Republican state Sens. Jim Tedisco and Daphne Jordan all on Friday called for this change in the distribution protocol to raise EMTs, firefighters and other first responders to level 1A of distribution.

That coincides with a recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

We realize that everyone should get the vaccine as soon as possible.

But some people are just too valuable to lose and in too much proximity to citizens to risk getting or spreading the infection.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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