Update: Island first responders start getting vaccine

Majority of Island first responders say they’ll get the shots.

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Several of the Island’s first responders got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Friday.

Speaking to The Times after getting his vaccine Friday, Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said the process was seamless.

“It’s a well-oiled machine,” McNamee said. “The inprocessing, the shot itself, then the post-vaccination monitoring. They even helped with your smartphone in getting you registered with the CDC for follow-up updates. I would have thought they’d been doing it for years; it went really well.”

McNamee was one of 250 Island first responders who signed up to get COVID-19 vaccines at a special clinic on Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday.

The hospital, boards of health, and Island police and fire departments created a list of 275 Island first responders, which includes police, fire, and EMS workers, who will receive the vaccine.

In light of recent discussion in Chilmark that some first responders didn’t want to get the vaccine, the Times reached out to each Island fire and police chief to ask how many members of their department signed up to get the vaccine this weekend.

In Edgartown, McNamee said about three-quarters of the department has signed up to receive a vaccine. “We’re doing pretty good over here,” McNamee said.

While aware that not all officers in the department signed up for vaccinations, McNamee said the matter isn’t pressing at this time. “It’s certainly something I’m thinking about, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the reluctance that officers have might be diminished as they see their peers receive the vaccination without any concerns,” McNamee, who is getting a vaccine dose on Friday, said. “I’m pretty happy with the numbers we have so far.”

Next door at the Edgartown Fire Department, Chief Alex Schaeffer said 83 percent of his department has signed up to receive the vaccine. 

Schaeffer said there hasn’t been pushback from any members, since the vaccine was only offered as something available to them. “We recognize that it’s a very personal decision for every member to make considerations of,” Schaeffer said. “There’s family, workplace, there are so many different factors involved when making a decision as to whether or not you want to be vaccinated, and we have to be cognizant of that.”

Similar to McNamee, Schaeffer said it’s very possible department members will get vaccinated later on.

In Oak Bluffs, Police Chief Erik Blake said 16 out of 20 people in his department are slated to receive the vaccine. Of those who opted out, he said, “no one has given any specific reason.” Blake said “there’s certainly a mechanism in place to make it mandatory,” but that’s not something he’s intent on pursuing presently. “I know I’m taking it,” he said. 

“It’s voluntary,” Aquinnah Fire Chief Simon Bollin said, “but everyone on the department has opted to take it.”

Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said out of four full-time officers and three special officers, “everybody but one” is taking the vaccine. 

West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone said the vaccine isn’t mandatory for his force. Of 10 full-time and two reserve members of the department, he said, 11 out of 12 plan to get vaccinated. “And it was the same thing with the flu shot,” he said.

West Tisbury Fire Chief Manual Estrella III said, “Most everybody on the fire department is taking it.” It wasn’t mandatory, he said. “It’s a volunteer fire department,” he said. “You can’t demand they do it.”

Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland said his department has about 90 percent of its members signed up to get the vaccine. He said there was no pushback from department members on getting the vaccine.

Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio could not be reached for comment.

In a statement to The Times, Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden wrote that the sheriff’s department has received a distribution of Moderna vaccines from the Department of Public Health.

“DCSO’s internal administration of the vaccine follows protocols as dictated by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Public Health. For further clarification or questions, please feel free to contact the Department of Public Health,” Ogden said.

Last week, hospital president and chief executive officer Denise Schepici said she is pleased with the number of first responders who have signed up to receive the vaccine.

“Obviously, we’d like to get 100 percent, but I surely understand people’s personal choices,” Schepici said. “I’m hoping that the experience of others will allay personal concerns.”

The hospital originally requested 275 doses from the state for first responders, after meeting with Island police and fire chiefs.

“Already we have 250 people signed up,” Claire Seguin, the hospital’s chief operating officer and chief nurse, said. Vaccine for the first responders is all from Moderna, which Seguin said is slightly easier to handle and store.

    • just curious Mike– Where did this comment come from ?
      Is there some hidden “dog whistle” in the article above that only certain people can see ?

        • Ashley — thank you for pointing that out– I missed it.
          I don’t really have a problem with it .
          She is a first responder when there are issues with animals. Those animals are often associated with people who are often angry or in distress–That’s the definition of a “first responder”. Right, Mike ?

  • What about the old people? I know many who live off island have gotten the shot. I would even go off if I knew where I could get it.

    • The general elderly are part of phase 2. The state and the papers have been very clear on the process. Part 1 phase 1 is medical providers that are face-to-face with COVID positive people, followed up by First Responders, those in congregant care settings (nursing homes, group homes, jails) and their staff and than home care providers & clients. They are currently expect to start the end of phase 1 in the beginning of Feb. Phase 2 should be starting mid-Feb the beginning of March.

  • They are opening up sites all around Mass. even on Nantucket but nothing here. I guess I could get a reservation and go of island and sign up, is that the answer??? I know people who are doing that or have done that!