Police, firefighters and emergency medical responders can begin getting coronavirus vaccines Jan. 11, Gov. Charlie Baker announced, something union leaders say “can’t come soon enough.”
“With respect to first responders, obviously I think we all would agree that vaccine distribution can’t happen fast enough,” Baker said on Monday during his regular coronavirus briefing at the State House. “But the process also needs to be thoughtful and thorough.”
Vaccinations for the state’s roughly 45,000 first responders will become available on Monday. Some larger departments of 200 or more members will be able to administer vaccines on site so long as they meet “a list of criteria” that includes the ability to properly store the vaccines — some of which need to be held at extremely cold temperatures.
Appointments will be available to first responders at 60 vaccination sites spread across the commonwealth, but appointments won’t open until later this week, officials said. Four regional mass vaccination sites will come online later this month, but officials declined to share details on exactly where and when those sites would open.
“These men and women put their lives on the line regularly back before we had COVID-19, and for the last 10 months, they’ve kept on working the front lines, protecting and caring for residents across Massachusetts,” Baker said.
The Baker administration caught flak from union leaders last week over a “lack of communication” regarding the details of the vaccine rollout for first responders. On Monday, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts President Richard MacKinnon Jr. said many of those issues were “resolved.”
“Our members are eager and willing and for many, this can’t come soon enough,” MacKinnon told the Herald.
First responders received third priority under Phase One of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, behind health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
As a group, they have been hard-hit by the virus. MacKinnon, a Whitman firefighter, said as of last week 805 of his union’s more than 12,000 members had COVID-19, another 650 were quarantining. In Boston, police officers and civilians in the Boston Police Department have returned more than 4,863 COVID-19 exposure forms since the outset of the pandemic, according to a department spokesman.
“Police officers, firefighters, EMTs and all first responders work in risky situations every day and this vaccine will protect them from COVID and the terrible illness that can come with it,” Baker said.
Last week, 60 Quincy Police officers and firefighters became some of the first emergency responders in the state to receive COVID-19 vaccines from Manet Community Health Center. MacKinnon said several other departments have since received doses.
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