GREENFIELD, Wis. - COVID-19 vaccine distribution is underway for only a handful of emergency medical services workers around the state.
It's brought a sigh of relief to some since EMS workers can’t follow social distancing guidelines during medical emergencies, but a tweet from the Greenfield Fire Department has sparked a conversation about first responders and the vaccine.
Greenfield Fire Chief Jon Cohn
Greenfield Fire Chief Jon Cohn said he wants to be clear that he's not saying others aren't a priority, but he said the job of EMS workers puts them in close contact with the deadly virus every day.
Chief Cohn says his goal is to raise awareness of the current lack of vaccines available for emergency medical services workers. Their job requires close contact with patients regardless of whether they're COVID-19 positive.
"We are not saying or diminishing that anyone is any more or any less of a priority," said Chief Cohn.
Cohn is also president of the Milwaukee County Association of Fire Chiefs.
"It was a stark reality that somebody had 17,000 vaccinations into their members' arms and in Milwaukee County for fire and EMS there’s zero," said Cohn.
In other counties like Dane, the vaccination process has already been rolled out to fire departments, with a West Madison department documenting the historic moment.
"Here we have like, 20 to 30 minute transport times where we are spending that time in an ambulance with covid patients so protecting my staff is number one," said Mount Horeb Fire Chief Jenny Minter.
Vaccine distribution has also begun for Kenosha County EMS workers. Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management said vaccination of EMS workers could start by the first week of January.
"We’re making sure they get the vaccine as soon as possible," he said.
Still, Chief Cohn said he wants to make sure EMS workers are not forgotten in the distribution process.
"We want to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone else who is a top priority and is in Category 1a," said Cohn.
Cohn said the department has also received outreach from clinics with access to the vaccine who might be able to transfer some of their doses to them sooner.