County’s volunteer EMS providers to begin receiving Moderna vaccine today

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CULLMAN, Ala. – Licensed emergency medical services (EMS) providers within Cullman County’s volunteer fire departments will begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna today. EMS providers are part of Phase 1a of the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) Vaccine Allocation Plan.

Jeff Byars, who serves with the Bethsadia Volunteer Fire Department and is coordinating today’s effort, said he thinks having the option is a good thing for volunteers.  

“Having the ability to have that vaccine I think is going to help our volunteers be more willing to keep serving in a volunteer capacity,” he said. “Because as you hear more of this and there’s more stories of it and you have more friends that are sick and die of this, you start thinking, ‘Is it really worth me going to this call for free? You know, we’re not getting paid a dime on this. Is it really worth us putting our life on the line just by setting foot into these people’s house?’”

He continued, “You know, we do everything we can to try to minimize exposure. We try not to go into people’s houses if we can, if they’re able to come outside to deal with us. Of course, that’s changing a little bit when you get these temperatures like we’ve had earlier that were in the 20-degree mark. We’re doing what we can to minimize our exposure, but still, that plays in the volunteers’ mind, ‘Is it really worth it for me to sign up to do this when I might get infected with something out of no fault of my own and could have this catastrophic event happen?’ Even if it wasn’t fatal- it may put you out of work for a period of weeks or months. Then it’s, ‘How do I provide for my family? I got sick from this volunteer thing.’ So this I think will help to have this vaccine out there to keep our volunteers going and being able to respond and assist.”

Byars was not sure Monday exactly how many volunteer EMS providers are going to sign up to get the vaccine, but said, “Hopefully this will help some of our volunteer EMS folks to get protected against this. We do provide a good service for the community and assist with Cullman EMS and the other transport services providing that initial care for these patients, especially in some of the remote areas that may be a while for an ambulance.”

For right now, in Phase 1a of the ADPH’s Vaccine Allocation Plan, only the licensed EMS providers can sign up from the volunteer fire departments. Phase 1b will expand that to include firefighters within the VFDs’ ranks.  

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Wendy Sack

wendy@cullmantribune.com