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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Gainesville and Alachua County firefighters among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Since Dec. 30, local first responders have received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Gainesville Fire Rescue preparing the vaccines for its team. (Gainesville Fire Rescue / Courtesy to The Alligator)
Gainesville Fire Rescue preparing the vaccines for its team. (Gainesville Fire Rescue / Courtesy to The Alligator)

Local firefighters were among the first groups of first responders to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Alachua County.

Gainesville Fire Rescue and Alachua County Fire Rescue received their first shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the Alachua County Health Department Dec. 30. Since then, GFR has vaccinated more than 45 of its firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, which make up almost half of its workforce, said Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Hillhouse.

Healthcare workers, first responders and high-risk residents in long-term care facilities have priority in receiving the vaccination, said Paul Myers, administrator of the ACHD. This group falls under the first of four phases of the vaccine distribution plan Myers presented to county commissioners in early December. Phase two covers essential workers, while phase three covers young adults, kids and general workers. The last phase covers the general public. 

Six months ago, Hillhouse and other members of GFR became a few of the 30,000 volunteers who participated in the Moderna vaccine trials. Now, they’re seeing it being administered to others on their team and in the community.

“We had read pretty extensively about the science behind the vaccine, so I felt very safe moving forward with it,” said Hillhouse. “Actually, GFR reached out directly to the company that was performing the drug trials.”

The GFR team volunteered for the study hoping to speed up the COVID-19 pandemic recovery process, Hillhouse said.

According to Moderna’s website, the volunteers were required to be in very good health to be eligible to participate in the trials. One of the reasons GFR participated in the trials was because they are a relatively healthy workforce that qualified to volunteer for the research, Hillhouse said.

“Now, we’re at a point where the vaccine trials were successful and the vaccine is being delivered,” Hillhouse said. “So that is a good feeling.”

The Alachua County Fire Rescue also received its first shipment of the vaccine Dec. 30, according to Michael Vogel, assistant fire chief of the Emergency Medical Service Division.

ACFR is excited about receiving the vaccine, Vogel said. The department posted a photo of ACFR Fire Chief Harold Theus receiving the shot on Facebook the day the department began vaccinating its firefighters.

“A lot of people are still trying to see what the vaccination holds just because it’s something that’s new,” Vogel said. “But those who have been affected mostly by it are all on board; they understand the severity of it.”

Contact Jiselle Lee at Follow her on Twitter @jiselle_lee.

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Jiselle Lee

Jiselle Lee is a freshman journalism student and a news assistant for the Independent Alligator. She loves trying new restaurants around Gainesville in her free time.

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