Shot in the arm: First responders receive vaccine

Gwen Dalphon prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during Saturday’s drive-thru at the Harrington Fire Station. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

HARRINGTON — A slight arm ache never felt so good for first responder Matthew Higgins.

With Saturday morning’s first of two vaccination shots for COVID-19, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control specialist was feeling a bit more comfortable about his future health.

“(My arm) is a little sore but whatever the side effects come from this, it’s going to beat being on a respirator,” he said from his truck at the Harrington Volunteer Fire Company vaccination site.

Mr. Higgins was waiting the requisite 15 minutes to make sure no complications arose from taking the injection of Moderna vaccine. State health officials were prepared to administer up to 500 doses during the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“To be able to get it so early is humbling because so many people need it and we’re not going to get out of this situation until we can get the bulk of our population vaccinated,” Mr. Higgins said.

Also waiting nearby was Sarah Winiker, who often assists maskless patients as an Emergency Medical Technician with the University of Delaware. Ms. Winiker also received a shot seamlessly and described the experience as “kind of exciting, a little surreal because after (nearly) a year of this I’m on the way to getting the vaccine.”

Another dose will be required for all recipients in 28 days, or as soon afterward as possible. With a freezer on site, officials were able to use just what Moderna vaccine was needed to meet Saturday’s demand and save the rest for upcoming stops. Once Moderna vaccine leaves the freezer it can be held 30 days in a refrigerator.

DPH spokeswoman Andrea Wojcik said the event was scheduled for “first responders (EMS, police and fire) with medically-related duties whether that is direct patient care, on-scene patient assistance, patient transport or who carry AEDs.

“DPH provided vouchers to each agency and as we have done for medical providers in health care systems and private practices, asked them to identify personnel eligible for the vaccines.”

Drivers wait to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Harrington Fire Station on Saturday.

Also, Ms. Wojcik said, “After the lines for first responders with vouchers were exhausted, DPH asked fire personnel to make companies aware that vaccines were available at this location and they would be offered the vaccine even if they had not already been provided a voucher by their respective agency.

“DPH did not require additional identification, and thus it is possible that individuals who were not first responders were vaccinated. No person who requested a vaccine today was turned away regardless of first responder status.

“DPH had adequate additional supply of the vaccine available for the event and wanted to make the most efficient use of the doses available to ensure those who wanted a vaccine were able to receive one.”

The First State has seen 23,851 vaccinations so far, according to the Delaware Division of Public Health, with has partnered with county EMS agencies to administer doses.

State of Delaware Emergency Medical Service Director Diane Hainsworth orchestrated the vaccination operation Saturday, with the assist from about 45 county paramedics and volunteers from the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps. The goal was to get a recipient in and out of the vaccination process within three minutes.

For Ms. Hainsworth, “The ability to protect our volunteers and our critical infrastructure is exceptionally important.

“When you look at the EMTs, the firefighters, the police, they really are the very start of the frontline provider because they are contacting these patients and taking care of people in uncontrolled situations in which you don’t know about someone’s past medical history, in many cases you know nothing about them until you get to the hospital.

“To protect these guys so they can continue to do what they do while we’re also protecting the healthcare infrastructure is paramount in making sure we can continue to respond and continue to address the COVID.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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