First responders in Massachusetts rolled up their sleeves today to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The city of Springfield has set up a vaccination site at the Boland Elementary School where the city’s police officers and firefighters can receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine this week by appointment.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said appointments, which are made online, have been filling up and she expects that 75-80 percent of the 500-member police department will decide to take the vaccine.
"People know ( COVID-19) is serious and we want to get back to work the way we used to," said Clapprood.
Clapprood said she is leading by example and received a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine last Friday.
"I am telling anybody who wants to know that I have had zero side effect and so I am encouraging the vaccine," said Clapprood.
Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi was also vaccinated last week and is encouraging the 300 members of the city’s fire department to follow his lead.
"We have had pretty good response from people wanting to take the vaccine, so hopefully we will reach 70 percent of the department who take it," said Calvi.
Despite precautions that have included no longer assigning officers to patrol in pairs and frequent cleanings and sanitizing of police vehicles and buildings, more than 100 Springfield police officers have been infected with the coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic, according to Clapprood.
" We've had our share ( of cases), so I have encouraged the vaccine," said Clapprood.
Monday was the first day police officers, firefighters, and EMTs in Massachusetts were eligible to be vaccinated. Statewide there are 60 locations where the state’s approximately 54,000 first responders can make an appointment to come in and be vaccinated.
A regional vaccination hub for first responders opened Monday on the UMass Amherst campus. Another opened at a site in East Longmeadow for police and firefighters from that municipality and a half-dozen others.
Massachusetts is in the first phase of its vaccine distribution plan. Frontline hospital workers and residents of long-term care facilities were the first to be vaccinated. After first responders will come people in congregate facilities including jails and shelters and home healthcare workers.
About 6,000-7,000 vaccine doses have been administered daily in Massachusetts since the effort started last month. That rate needs to increase significantly to meet the goal to vaccinate most of the state’s population by this summer, according to Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.
"I expect things are going to pick up and they certainly need to pick up big time, and I mean 5 to 7 times as fast as now if we are going to meet our deadlines," said Keroack.
Keroack said Monday that Baystate has provided the first of two recommended doses of the vaccine to 7,800 of its employees who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients. The hospital has run out of vaccine and is not sure when the next shipment will arrive.