Local first responders to receive COVID-19 vaccine next week

AGAWAM- First responders from Westfield and Southwick will receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine next week as part of a multi-department collaborative with the Town of Agawam.

Approximately 145 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be given to Westfield police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and dispatchers on Jan. 13, 2021 at the Bethany Assembly of God church in Agawam, less than a year after the first COVID-19 cases were detected in Massachusetts. 

Westfield Fire Chief Patrick Egloff said that he was contacted by Agawam Fire Chief Alan Sirois who wanted to include Westfield first responders in the program so that enough doses could be secured. After speaking with Sirois, Egloff said that he contacted Westfield Health Director Joseph Rouse, who promptly gave his blessing. 

First responder’s departments needed to order a minimum of 200 doses. Neither Westfield or Agawam would be able to meet that threshold by themselves, but combining the two municipalities put them over the edge. In addition to Westfield and Agawam, first responders from Southwick, Blandford, Montgomery, Russell, Munson, the Westover Air Reserve Base, and Westfield Barnes Regional Airport will also receive their first doses of the vaccine. 

In total, approximately 400 doses will be administered on Jan. 13. The second dose will be administered 28 days later on Feb. 10. 

Egloff said that the vaccines will be administered by school nurses and paramedics from Agawam, and that between 10 and 20 vaccine stations will be set up. 

“By us getting it first, it protects us so that we may protect everybody else,” said Egloff, “We want to show people that the vaccine is safe. If police officers, firefighters, and EMTs are going to get it, the general public should understand that it is safe.”

In the early days of the pandemic in Westfield, both the police and fire departments were among the first places where the virus was detected. 

In a letter from Chief Sirois to the rest of the local police and fire chiefs, he said that the actual process will take about one hour for each person. It will take 45 minutes for registration, medical screening, and the actual vaccine administration. There will then be a 15 minute observation period where the one who receives the dose will be monitored for any immediate medical reactions or side effects. 

Egloff said that the expectation is that 400 doses will be able to be administered over a five-hour period. 

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