First responders from around the region began getting their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.
CAI visited a clinic hosted by the town of Sandwich that vaccinated 92 public safety personnel from Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, and Sandwich, plus members of the fire department from Joint Base Cape Cod.
The departments are working together to help staff the site at the human services building, and they expect to dispense nearly 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine over the next few days.
Police, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs were greeted in the driveway, asked for their names, and directed to park and go inside. Once inside, they received the vaccine at one of three stations and exited out a different door to keep foot traffic moving and minimize virus risk.
The staff gave each person a note with a departure time and asked them to wait in their vehicles for 15 minutes to watch for any reaction to the vaccine. Those with a history of serious allergic reaction were asked to wait in an indoor waiting room for 30 minutes.
Sandwich Public Health Nurse Joanne Geake said the clinic felt similar to what the town did a decade ago for H1N1 flu, but with extra precautions.
“We have a fragile vaccine that you have to be very careful with,” she said. “You can't drop it. You can't shake it. ... The different piece of this is, the vaccine is different.”
Sandwich Fire Chief John “J.J.” Burke got his vaccine last Wednesday, along with the vaccinators and others staffing the clinic.
“It's very similar to a flu shot — same type of reaction,” he said. “I had a sore arm for about 24 hours after, but no other effects at all.”
His department did not make vaccination mandatory; about 80 percent of the department chose to get the shot, he said.
Sandwich Police Chief Peter Wack was among the first to get the vaccine at Monday’s clinic. He said he felt completely confident about it after listening to medical professionals, including the town physician, Dr. Ryan Bemis.
“I didn't even waver for a second,” Wack said. “I knew, from the time that there was going to be a vaccine, that I would want to have it.”
Appointments were scheduled six minutes apart. Officials said the clinic was running ahead of schedule and could finish on Wednesday instead of continuing through Thursday as originally planned.
Clinic staff gave each person a card showing they received the Moderna vaccine and the date. The town plans to dispense second doses in 28 days, starting Feb. 8.
Sandwich officials hope to be able to start vaccinating the public in the near future.
David Mason, the town health director, said if Sandwich gets state approval to give vaccines to the public, it would likely run a drive-through clinic at the former Henry T. Wing Elementary School, as the town has done with flu clinics.
Whether such a clinic would serve only Sandwich or include other communities remains to be determined.