The FDNY on Wednesday launched a massive effort to vaccinate city EMS workers against the coronavirus, with the contagion again bearing down.
The department can vaccinate a total of 450 members per day across three facilities: FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn, the EMS academy at Fort Totten in Queens and the FDNY academy on Randall’s Island.
“This is a great day for the FDNY,” said department Commissioner Dan Nigro in a statement. “Science has answered the call for help from our Department and all essential frontline healthcare workers and produced a vaccine to combat this deadly illness.”
The FDNY received the Moderna vaccine, one of two publicly-available inoculations, both of which require two shots administered a few weeks apart.
Responders who showed up to Randall’s Island on Wednesday hailed the vaccine as a godsend.
“The main thing is to keep on working, staying safe and serving the people of New York City,” said Edwin Mendez, a 28-year veteran and one of the first EMS workers to receive the vaccine. “It also gives me the opportunity that I can go home to my family safe with an extra security blanket.”
Mendez voiced hope that many of his colleagues would sign up for the shots.
“I hope a lot of my fellow co-workers follow suit,” he said.
The vaccine is not required for FDNY members, but strongly encouraged, said Nigro.
A recent internal poll conducted by the Uniformed Firefighters Association union found that more than half of smoke-eaters who responded would refuse the vaccine, with union officials citing, in part, a lack of education about who needs the shot.
“I strongly encourage all of our members to take the COVID-19 vaccine offered through the Department to protect themselves, their colleagues, and their loved ones,” said Nigro. “Through our vaccination process, we will further improve the safety of our members during this pandemic and ensure that the FDNY will continue to protect and care for the city our members bravely serve.”
The vaccine will be available to FDNY firefighters starting on Dec. 29.
The rollout took on a bittersweet tone following the death Tuesday night of a 12th FDNY hero from the disease, EMS dispatcher Evelyn Ford.
Bennie Guzman, another EMS worker toward the head of the line at Randall’s Island said that as he got the shot his mind was on his mother, lost to the coronavirus in May at the age of 85.
“I wish she was still around,” said the 57-year-old chief’s aide through tears after receiving the shot. “I hope everybody else can get it and make their family safer.”