BOSTON – More than 75 State Representatives and Senators want a more robust and transparent plan to administer the COVID-19 Vaccine to first responders in the Commonwealth.
Those elected state leaders signed on to a letter written by the chair of the House Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr. submitted to the Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Massachusetts Health Secretary Marylou Sudders today, December 30.
Among the signers were Representatives David Linsky, Danielle Gregoire, jack Patrick Lewis, Maria Robinson, and Carmine Gentile.
“I appreciate your continued efforts to mitigate and manage the COVID19 pandemic. This last year has been incredibly challenging for many in the Commonwealth and you have shown tremendous leadership during these unprecedented times. I am especially encouraged by the news that vaccines will be administered to residents in the Commonwealth in the next few months,” wrote Rep. Naughton Jr.
“However, I also write to express concern about the need for greater clarity and transparency on how and when vaccines will be administered to other priority populations as part of Phase 1. While appreciating the updates your administration has provided regarding the initial rounds of vaccine distribution, I have heard from many in the first responder and public safety community that there has been little to no information provided as to when vaccines will be provided to fire, law enforcement and emergency personnel (other than inclusion in Phase 1 and a general time line of December to February). Nor has sufficient guidance been provided as to how vaccines will be administered to these groups,” wrote the legislators.
“My understanding is that the current plan is to place the responsibility with local boards of health to administer the vaccine to public safety personnel. I fear this could be extremely burdensome to those local boards, all of whom have already been forced to take on extraordinary responsibilities throughout the past ten months. Respectfully, I feel this plan has structural weaknesses that could lead to confusion and delay,” wrote Rep. Naughton Jr. and co-signed by the others. “Administering the vaccine to hundreds of police and fire departments across the state may be far more complex than the current wave of vaccines being administered to hospital personnel and residents of care facilities. The disparate geographical nature of these personnel needs to be planned for. There must be a robust plan in place to assure that our public safety departments can plan accordingly and communicate with their officers and employees when to expect vaccination.”
“I understand the complexities and complications involved in determining a proper plan to administer these vaccines safely. I strongly and respectfully urge that in moving forward with the vaccine distribution to public safety officers and employees, your administration consider the following recommendations<‘ wrote the legislators.
1. Create a regionalized plan in consultation and in a collaborative manner between the Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to distribute and administer the vaccine to our public safety personnel. This must take into account how and when different regions will be able access vaccines and how the administration plans to prioritize each region and department. There are already in place multiple structures which could be used as centralized hubs for distribution such as fire districts and hazmat districts.
2. Additionally, 7000 of the 12000 professional firefighters around the Commonwealth are also EMTs who could administer the vaccine to their colleagues, including call and volunteer departments.
“It goes without saying that our men and women in uniform have been a vital part of the Commonwealth’s response to the pandemic, often at great risk and sacrifice to themselves and their families. We owe to them and the public’s safety to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that our plans to administer the vaccine are transparent, efficient, and effective. Given the complexities involved, we must make every effort now to make sure that our public safety personnel on the frontlines of this pandemic are given every opportunity to access this vaccine when appropriate and are not jeopardized by inadequate planning and preparation,” wrote the legislators to Gov. baker & his health secretary today.
“I thank you for your consideration of this matter. I also once again thank you for all your efforts in combating the pandemic thus far. Having served multiple combat tours in very high operational tempos, it is clear to me that the efforts you are making and the pressure you are subjected daily is certainly similar to a wartime footing. I don’t know if the people of the Commonwealth will ever truly be aware of the sacrifices you, and your families, have made,” wrote Rep. Naughton Jr.