WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Health officials are working around the clock to administer COVID-19 vaccines to at-risk populations, but they're hitting a roadblock.
Some elderly patients are confined to their homes for medical reasons, and can't leave to get the shot. In West Allis, firefighters are answering that call.
"Our goal is to be servants of the public," said Deputy Chief Armando Suarez Del Real of the West Allis Fire Department.
It's in the West Allis Fire Department's mission statement to "safeguard lives and reduce community risk."
"There was a lot of tearful 'thank yous' over the phone just scheduling it," said Suarez Del Real.
West Allis Fire Department's Mobile Integrated Healthcare team (MIH)
On Thursday, Feb. 18, the department's Mobile Integrated Healthcare team (MIH) was sent on assignment. Tasked by the city's health department, the MIH team is vaccinating a pre-selected group of high-risk patients who are homebound for various medical reasons.
Barb is in her seventies and has stage four metastatic breast cancer. Her oncologist recommended the vaccine, but Barb said she has her husband to think about.
"I knew he couldn’t go out because he has to go every place by ambulance," Barb said.
MIH paramedics Rachel and Mallory provide in-home COVID-19 vaccinations
So, the MIH team came to Barb and her husband.
"I think this is great because I don’t think I would have made the decision to do it if they hadn’t called and made it convenient for us," said Barb.
Paramedics Rachel and Mallory completed paperwork, answered questions, and finally, administered Barb's first dose of Moderna's vaccine. Her second is scheduled in one month.
It's offering peace of mind to Barb and the people she loves the most, and giving the West Allis Fire Department a chance to make a difference.
"We’re a close family, we all live around here, we want to stay in contact with each other," Barb said.
"We have something here that is progressing forward and really changing the lives of people in our community that are at risk," said Christopher Williams, West Allis Fire Department's MIH lieutenant.
The MIH team is heading back into the community Friday, Feb. 19 to vaccinate another group of pre-identified patients. Between Thursday and Friday, the West Allis Fire Department is administering doses to 20 people. They are all scheduled to recieve their second dose next month, on March 18 or 19.
The West Allis Fire Department is not registering patients for the COVID-19 vaccine. The patients vaccinated by the MIH team on Feb. 18 and 19 were pre-selected by the West Allis Health Department.