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Massachusetts First Responders Can Get COVID-19 Vaccine Starting On Jan. 11

Colleen Laico, from Kingston, NY, a medical professional at the ER at Kingston Hospital, receives her COVID-19 vaccination at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, December 18, 2020
Courtesy of the Office of Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan

First responders in Massachusetts will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on January 11, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday. 

The state has been working with public safety agencies to develop plans for vaccinating the roughly 45,000 first responders statewide. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said Monday he is anxious to get the vaccine into the arms of police officers and firefighters in the largest city in western Massachusetts.

"We are at a critical juncture right now, " Sarno said at his regular COVID-19 briefing."We need the vaccine yesterday."

As of Monday, Sarno said 33 Springfield Police Officers are off the job after a positive test for COVID-19.   The Springfield Fire Department is down 11 people who have either contracted the disease or are in quarantine after coming in close contact with someone who was infected.

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said despite precautions, including preventing officers from riding together in cars and frequent cleaning and sanitizing of police buildings, the number of officers off the job because of COVID-19 is the most since the start of the pandemic.

"We look forward to getting the vaccine into the department as soon as we possibly can." said Clapprood.

State police have been assigned to assist patrolling Springfield because of the drop in the number of local officers available.

Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said her department expects to receive a shipment of vaccine this week to administer to the city’s first responders.

"It would appear it a process that should be a a 'no-brainer', but it is not," said Caulton-Harris, explaining that there are medical screenings and other considerations before someone can be administered a vaccine.

The rollout of the vaccine, which started three weeks ago with healthcare workers followed by residents of long-term care facilities, comes as virus activity remains very high in Springfield. 

There were 4,496 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Springfield in December – 1,829 more than in November and the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic.

"I am so hopeful that is the highest month that we will ever see," said Caulton-Harris.

Springfield recorded eight new COVID-19 deaths last week, bringing the total for the pandemic in the city to 158. 

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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