Nfld. & Labrador

'A turning point': First responders get the COVID-19 vaccine

It was a cold and windy day in St. John's, where a vaccination clinic was set up for first responders, but the prevailing mood was one of hope and optimism. 
Firefighter Jon Walsh receives the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic on Mundy Pond Road in St. John's on Friday from registered nurse Joyce Kelly. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

The people who respond to fires, car crashes, crimes and and other emergency calls are rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccination. 

First responders are among the groups in Phase 2 of the vaccination plan. Also included in that stage are teachers, truck drivers and rotational workers. 

As of Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador had administered more than 48,000 doses of the vaccine. 

And while it was a cold and windy day in St. John's where a vaccination clinic was set up, the prevailing mood was one of hope and optimism. 

A nurse at the vaccine clinic set up on Mundy Pond Road in St. John's for first responders shows off vials of the vaccine. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

'It's a good day'

Platoon Chief Dean Foley of the St. John's Regional Fire Department said "it's a good day" to see firefighters get their first shot.

He admitted "it has been challenging" being a first responder amid a pandemic. 

At one point, 51 firefighters were in isolation because of a possible exposure from a firefighter who tested positive for COVID-19.

Foley said the current safety measures will continue, like masks and other personal protective equipment, but the vaccine offers "that little bit more of protection."

Platoon Chief Dean Foley of the St. John's Regional Fire Department says being a first responder in a pandemic has been challenging. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

He offers one piece of advice to others who may be next in line: "If it comes to you, go get your vaccine."

'It's a turning point'

Sgt. Mike Summers, who represents members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association, said there has been some concern among officers who respond to calls while a highly contagious virus circulates.

Sgt. Mike Summers, who represents members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association, says this latest stage of vaccinations is a 'turning point' for people who respond to emergency calls. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"This day has been a long time coming but it's peace of mind for our members," he said Friday. 

"It's a turning point and hopefully, you know, we'll be able to see that bit of light at the end of the tunnel."

'The mood is a lot better now'

Rodney Gaudet, president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, which represents 900 paramedic practitioners in the province, said well over half of its members have had at least one dose of the vaccine already. 

"The mood is a lot better now, having the vaccine on board. It's just another piece of our PPE," he said.

Rodney Gaudet of the Paramedics Association of Newfoundland and Labrador says getting the vaccine is another key part to workers protecting themselves. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

First responders regularly face on-the-job pressure, he said, but amid COVID-19, there is even more. 

"Knowing that the more people are vaccinated in the province, it definitely feels better for paramedic practitioners when they're responding to calls," he said. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts and Patrick Butler

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