Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis stressed to Florida fire chiefs on Friday the vital role they will play in distributing the COVID-19 vaccination to other first responders across the state.
Speaking on a phone call with chiefs from across the state, Patronis described vaccinations for first responders as “vital to Florida’s recovery” and emergency readiness. The phone call was the latest in a stream of contact Patronis has maintained with the Florida Fire Chiefs Association and the Florida Professional Firefighters organization.
“With recent news that COVID vaccine trials have been increasingly successful and as state emergency managers work to solidify a vaccine distribution plan, we must work together to ensure that our firefighters are fully prepared and equipped to distribute a safe and viable COVID-19 vaccine to fire stations statewide as soon as it’s available,” Patronis said on the call.
Patronis particularly highlighted the importance of vaccinations for fire stations in rural areas, where crews are often smaller in numbers and resources. He cautioned that the virus has the potency to derail emergency operations for a widespread region should an outbreak occur.
“Our firefighters live in extremely close quarters inside a fire station where social distancing is difficult and nearly impossible when responding to emergency calls,” Patronis said. “If one fire station goes down with a rash of COVID cases, it puts a strain on the entire fire department in that area. We must do everything we can to ensure continuity of emergency services by protecting these first responders.”
While vaccine distribution will be an “all hands on deck” operation involving state, local and federal officials, Patronis noted that healthcare institutions will be coordinated through the process.
He also noted that the COVID-19 vaccines will require delicate handling and needs to be properly refrigerated during transportation.
“It won’t be as simple as putting it on a truck and bringing it to a fire station,” he said, adding: “The speed of delivery will be of the essence when it comes to getting our first responders protected from COVID-19. This won’t be a cookie-cutter process.”
As of Friday, two COVID-19 vaccinations are approaching the finish line for FDA approval.
Moderna Inc. and competitor Pfizer Inc. recently announced preliminary results that show both vaccines appear more than 90% effective.