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IAFC voices strong support for vaccine prioritization for first responders

The International Association of Fire Chiefs also said EMS personnel should have a role in administering the vaccine


A nurse gives a volunteer an injection in a study for a possible COVID-19 vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. The IAFC has voiced its strong support for keeping first responders on the highest priority tier for a vaccine.

AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File

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By Laura French

CHANTILLY, Va. — The International Association of Fire Chiefs has voiced its strong support for the prioritization of first responders in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The IAFC wrote in a statement Wednesday that it applauded the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine for its recent recommendation that firefighters, EMS personnel and other first responders be included in the first phase of distribution once the vaccine is available.

“The IAFC strongly supports the National Academies’ decision to place all firefighters and EMS personnel in the highest priority tier,” the statement read. “Fire departments’ all-hazards response role puts firefighters and EMS personnel in routine risk of exposure to COVID-19. Ensuring these individuals can receive the vaccination will allow them to maintain their readiness for medical emergencies, fires, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other emergencies.”

Support for the prioritization of first responders was one of three main recommendations Fire Chief Gary Ludwig, the IAFC’s president for 2019-2020, made while addressing the National Academies during a public listening session Wednesday.

Ludwig also urged the National Academies and the federal government to require uniform prioritization scheduling across all states to ensure all first responders stay on the highest priority level throughout the country.

“The IAFC is aware of some states that de-prioritized fire departments for access to COVID-19 PPE and testing. Similar state-level deviations should not be permitted when it comes to providing vaccines to fire and EMS personnel,” the association stated.

Ludwig’s third recommendation was for fire and EMS personnel to be given a role in administering the vaccine.

“Fire and EMS personnel in many cities already are facilitation COVID-19 testing. The strategic locations of fire stations and the advanced medical training of firefighters and EMS personnel make them logical partners in administering the vaccine to the public,” the IAFC statement read.

The association added that it will continue to urge the government to prioritize first responders for COVID-19 PPE, testing, treatments and vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told state governments Wednesday that health officials should be prepared to distribute a vaccine by Nov. 1.

The IAFC previously co-signed a letter in July to President Donald Trump, along with the American Ambulance Association, Congressional Fire Services Institute, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Association of EMTs, National Fire Protection Association and National Volunteer Fire Council, asking that firefighters and EMS personnel be placed on the highest priority level for the developing vaccine.