Emergency medical technicians and paramedics across Vermont have joined the urgent effort to administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’ve had a massive outpouring of individuals asking, ‘How can I lend a hand?’” said Dan Batsie, who heads emergency preparedness for the Vermont Department of Health.
Batsie said the decision to activate EMTs as clinical staff at vaccination sites is part of an approach some might term “all hands on deck.”
He explained that between the health department staff at state clinics, doses offered through hospital and pharmacy partners, medical reserve corps volunteers stepping up to administer shots, and now the help from EMTs — who in time should be making roving visits to homebound seniors — there has never been a vaccination campaign so large or complex.
Vendors are also part of the vaccine rollout, Batsie noted, and state employees from departments aside from the health department are lending a hand at the vaccination sites in support roles such as check-in or traffic control.
“What we are trying to figure out is how to utilize every bit of resource that we have, to be able to do this as quickly as possible,” Batsie said of Vermont’s approach to COVID-19 vaccine administration. “We’re going to be restricted by federal allocations [of vaccine doses], but we want to make sure that there’s nothing sitting on any shelf anywhere.”
At the South Burlington Fire Department, Capt. Micah Genzlinger received additional training so that he can administer vaccine doses to people with appointments at state-run clinics.
Batsie said training seminars have been held both online and in-person to qualify EMTs to provide vaccine doses to Vermonters.
Genzlinger and his colleagues will be working at vaccine sites outside of their normal shifts with the city, he noted.
“We can help other Vermonters—not just the people in South Burlington that we help remain healthy every day—but we can help Vermonters throughout the state,” the fire captain observed, describing the pride he feels in taking on the new responsibility.
Having his department help out is personal for South Burlington Fire Chief Terry Francis.
“I likely got it here on the job,” Francis told NECN, describing his COVID-19 infection that saw him missing 12 weeks of work when he got sick in March of last year. “It’s a lousy disease—it makes you very ill.”
Francis pointed out that certain patients have long-term symptoms that linger following their bouts with the viral infection, including himself.
The longtime member of the fire service in Chittenden County said he now has a blood clot in his leg that his physician is monitoring.
“Don’t get it,” Francis warned of the coronavirus. “Keep up with wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands, and the other measures we’ve been doing—‘be part of the solution,’ as my mom said.”
Francis praised the staff of the South Burlington Fire Department for stepping up during his absence last year and ensuring good service to the community.
After his experience with the disease, Francis said he’d be thrilled to spare someone else that anguish. He said he is proud to see Vermont’s EMTs working toward healthier communities in a new way as providers of the COVID-19 vaccine at state-run clinic sites.
“To help out Vermonters so they don’t get this virus and that they can remain healthy and start getting us back to normal,” Francis said of his hope for the result of the vaccine effort.
Vermont residents age 75+ who wish to register for a vaccination appointment are encouraged to do so online, at this website: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/getting-covid-19-vaccine
The phone line for registrations in Vermont is 855-722-7878 and is staffed from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, according to a Health Department announcement last month.
After the vaccination of the 75+ age band is complete, which could take more than four more weeks, the state will move to the 70+ age group. Following that, it will be 65+ then people with medical concerns including current cancer or COPD.