As the nation’s fire and emergency service continues responding to ever-increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, it’s becoming more critical than ever that firefighters and EMS personnel have everything needed to keep them safe. Guaranteeing prioritized access to future COVID-19 vaccines is one of the most effective ways to keep first responders safe.
On July 29, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met to discuss the development of a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations. One of the ACIP’s top goals is to develop a prioritization schedule for which groups of at-risk populations will receive the vaccination first. While the ACIP recognizes the importance of vaccinating healthcare workers, defining exactly who qualifies for this designation has become a more difficult task.
IAFC President Gary Ludwig spoke with the group about the need to ensure fire and EMS personnel are at the top of the priority list of COVID-19 vaccine recipients. Earlier in the COVID-19 response, the federal government arbitrarily excluded fire and EMS personnel from prioritized access to PPE and COVID-19 testing that had been afforded to other healthcare personnel. President Ludwig expressed his concern that this de-prioritization may have exacerbated fire and EMS exposures to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and must not be repeated in the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to President Ludwig’s oral comments to the ACIP, the IAFC also submitted written comments
urging the ACIP to prioritize fire and EMS personnel for receiving a future COVID vaccine. The IAFC will continue urging the ACIP, and the entirety of the federal government, to ensure America’s fire and emergency service is protected fully when responding to COVID-19 patients and all other emergencies.
Evan Davis is a strategic government relations manager for the IAFC.