First Responders Request Top Priority for COVID-19 Vaccinations
Minnesota first responders believe they should be among the first in line to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Brooklyn Park Fire Chief John Cunningham serves as president of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, which is advocating for top priority in receiving the vaccine.
“The fact of the matter is many fire departments respond to medical calls. It’s not uncommon that 70-80% of calls you see a firefighter driving to is a medical call,” explained Cunningham.
The CDC approved recommendations this week made by a panel of scientific experts for the first round of vaccinations. The CDC put front line health care workers and nursing home residents in the first priority group.
In a letter to Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association is asking to move first responders into the top priority category. The letter states that, so far, 20% of fire departments across the state have had COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Our first responders are on that front line. A lot of organizations don’t have a huge bench on staffing. As I look at the statewide map of impacts to fire departments, the number of fire departments continue to have outbreaks in their own ranks,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham added that waiting until the second wave could mean a delay in weeks or months. After the firefighters made the request to be moved into the highest priority category, state health leaders say there will not be enough initial doses to vaccinate everyone who is eligible in the first round.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcom said Minnesota is required to follow the CDC’s framework, which puts first responders in the second-priority category, or Phase 1B.
Gov. Walz is expected to release more details on vaccine distribution next week.