LAWRENCE, Mass. (WPRI) — Monday, police and fire department members in Lawrence will be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Essex County.
The regional vaccination site for first responders, at the South Lawrence East Elementary School gymnasium, is operated by Lawrence General Hospital.
Monday morning, about 160 Lawrence police and fire department members rolled up their sleeves.
Lawrence’s Acting Fire Chief Robert Wilson was one of the first in his department to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Just like the nurses, and everybody else that comes into contact with COVID patients like we do, it helps us keep our guys on the workforce, keep our guys on the front line,” Wilson said.
Wilson and his wife battled COVID-19 in November. He says his wife’s symptoms were more severe.
“[She] couldn’t get up, spending 15 hours in bed, no energy,” Wilson said. “We got real close to almost taking her to the hospital, but then it finally broke. But, uh, yeah it was, it was nerve wracking.”
He says getting the vaccine will provide some peace of mind.
“I have a couple of daughters at home. So, just to try to keep everybody safe,” Wilson said.
When Lawrence Police Lt. Sandy Picard was asked why she signed up to get the vaccine, she said, “Why wouldn’t I?”
“It means a lot to us, because we are in close contact and we don’t have as much protection as you do in the hospitals,” Picard said. “So, this is very big for us, for our department.”
Despite the added protection, Picard says she and her colleagues will still use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
‘There’s other things out there besides COVID and the flu and everything else. So, I’m still going to use my protection. But, I feel a lot better,” Picard said.
Picard says she’s read up on the vaccine, and has faith it’s safe. She says she’s already looking forward to receiving her second shot.
“A lot of time and effort and science went into this, and I know some people think it should take a long time, but this is what they focused on this whole time, this one vaccine,” Picard said.
“So, I’m confident in taking this shot, and they should be confident in taking the shot,” she continued.
There will be three options for how first responders can get the vaccine in Massachusetts, according to state health officials.
Some first responders may be able to get vaccinated on-site at their place of work. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) says those departments would need to identify at least 200 individuals that plan to be vaccinated in order to qualify.
Additionally, there will be first responder vaccination sites at places like school gyms or churches.
In the coming weeks, the state is setting up mass vaccination sites for first responders to access the vaccine.
According to MDPH, first responder clinics will receive the Moderna vaccine, and hospitals working to vaccinate first responders will receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Massachusetts health officials reported 54 more people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, and 4,239 new cases of the virus.