Vaccinations begin for first responders

Abington Deputy Police Chief Chris Cutter rolled up the sleeve of his navy blue uniform shirt Wednesday morning. Abington Fire paramedic Chris O’Toole prepped his fellow first responder’s arm, injected him with a small needle, applied a band-aid, and it was done: Abington’s acting top cop is now vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

Almost a year after the coronavirus pandemic started sweeping the globe, the vaccination process is underway. In Massachusetts, health care workers, first responders, and those in long-term care facilities will be among those first in line to receive the vaccines.

The town has been allocated 60 doses of the Moderna vaccine — enough to vaccinate each of the town’s police officers and firefighters. Instead of entire shifts showing up to receive their shots at once, the vaccinations are being spread out over a number of days. Health Agent Marty Golightly said this is being done to ensure the fire and police departments aren’t left shorthanded if there are negative reactions.

Those receiving the shot are asked to stick around for about 20 minutes to make sure there isn’t an adverse reaction. The CDC said there have been an average of 11.1 severe adverse reactions for every 1 million doses administered so far.

Although Abington has been allocated enough vaccinations for every first responder, not everyone plans to receive one right away. 

Fire Chief John Nuttall said “a good percentage” of Abington’s firefighters — all of whom are either EMTs or paramedics — plan to receive the vaccination in the coming days. Cutter said about half the police department will receive a shot.

Cutter said some officers are concerned about unknown long-term effects of the vaccine, and would prefer to receive their shot down the road. In an effort to assuage fears, Cutter said he has provided the department with safety information; he also hoped by receiving the shot others will follow his lead.

“I’m having it done, it’s not a bad thing to have done,” Cutter said.

Golightly said if they have extra shots at the end of the day, they have a call list of Abington health care workers and other people standing by to come down and receive a vaccination.

“We are not wasting shots,” Golightly said emphatically.

The Health Department’s early efforts to create the infrastructure needed to store, track, and administer the vaccines means the town has emerged as a small supply hub.

“Abington is helping other communities with their distribution needs,” Golightly said.   

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