The COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed in Santa Clara County and local first responders are among the first to receive it.
“By the end of January, all of our personnel that elected to receive the vaccine will get it; will get the first round,” said Santa Clara Fire Department Battalion Chief Drew Miller. “All of them will have received their second round by about two-thirds of the way through February based on our second doses.”
Miller says some firefighters received the Moderna vaccine and others received the Pfizer. Which vaccine they received simply depended on when they rotated into the vaccination site. He says so far, no firefighters have shown any of the adverse side effects that some vaccine recipients have reported.
Miller says a small group of firefighters opted not to receive the vaccine, mostly because of a history of allergic reactions to vaccines. He says those firefighters will continue to follow the protocols put in place when the stay at home order was initiated in March 2020.
The vaccinations are not expected to drastically alter the way firefighters respond to calls.
“The biggest change is that once we have the vaccine, the recommendation from both public health, the medical director and CDC is that instead of doing the precautionary quarantine, where we’re off duty while awaiting results of a negative test, we could be on duty wearing an N-95 mask or respirator awaiting results… it allows us just way less of an impact to our workforce should we end up with a positive test result,” said Miller.
While Santa Clara firefighters have started receiving the vaccine, city police officers have not. Miller says, the Fire Department expects to be closely involved in rolling out the vaccine to both officers and the general public.
“Our intent going forward will be once we have that vaccinated workforce and they get more doses, we’re going to be working with the county…administering vaccinations to other first responders,” said Miller. “As our numbers increase, we’ll have an administration workforce to be able to do it in multiple locations and I think you’ll see us roll this thing out very quickly.”
In Sunnyvale, a majority of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers have started to receive the vaccine. Since DPS personnel are trained as police officers, firefighters and EMTs, all of them are expected to among the first to be vaccinated.
“Everyone has been offered the opportunity to receive the vaccination,” said Sunnyvale DPS Chief Phan Ngo. “It’s a personal decision, we’re not making it mandatory, and so far, our participation is that we have about close to 60 percent of the officers that have received the first dose and we have about 20 percent of all sworn personnel staffing, that are waiting for the vaccine.”
Ngo, who also serves on Santa Clara County’s vaccine working group, says even after the second dose of the vaccine is administered, COVID-19 protocols will stay in place within the department.
“We’re still going to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, don’t touch your mouth, your nose. The good practices that we have been doing for the last 10 months,” said Ngo. “Operationally, we’re going to keep everything the same, that we’ve been doing for the last nine months to keep our officers safe; to keep our committee members safe when we interact with them. We just want to be cautious and not make the assumption that because an employee has been vaccinated that we can go back to normal the way it was before.”
Ngo says Sunnyvale has also committed personnel to help with the rollout of the vaccine.