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First responders frustrated to not be vaccinated yet

Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 4:36 PM CST
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - Frustration is building among some first responders who are still waiting to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Relief, however, may be on the way.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fond du Lac Fire Rescue has transported more than a hundred patients who had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“Some long haul transfers from our hospital here in Fond du Lac down to Madison and Milwaukee. We’re in a confined space for over an hour with a patient who is known to be COVID positive. We want to make sure our rescue workers have every bit of safety that they can have,” says Fond du Lac Fire Rescue Chief Peter O’Leary.

But three weeks after the first doses of the vaccine arrived in Wisconsin, Fond du Lac Fire Rescue has yet to see any of its nearly 70 members vaccinated, even though as first responders, they fall into the CDC’s 1-A priority group. The fire chief telling Action 2 News he hasn’t even been given of timeline of when to expect to see the shots. “There’s just not a lot of definition in the rollout of this vaccine for our people and that’s what I’m concerned about,” adds Chief O’Leary.

Fond du Lac Fire Rescue isn’t alone. Action 2 News has learned the Appleton Fire Department hasn’t begun vaccinating its staff and neither has the Oshkosh Fire Department, although it was notified late Monday afternoon its vaccinations would start on Tuesday.

As for Fond du Lac County, O’Leary says, “The health officer says that they’re going to order some today and then maybe it will be here next week and then order some next week. This has got to be an urgency. I just don’t feel that our health system has the same level of urgency for us, as they should.”

The Fond du Lac County Health Department is partnering with SSM Health to administer the COVID-19 vaccine locally. SSM Health says, since December 15th, it’s given out 1700 doses of the vaccine in the greater Fond du Lac area to people who fall into the 1-A priority group, which includes anyone who interfaces with patients or infectious materials.

Fond du Lac County Health Officer Kim Mueller wants to get everyone in that group vaccinated, as soon as possible, in order to continue down the line, saying that should begin to happen in the next 24-hours. She adds, “We do have a whole bunch of vaccine that, this week, we are going to start tackling some of those groups that we just talked about that are in phase 1A that aren’t affiliated with the hospitals specifically. So, the EMTs, the paramedics, that group would be our next group that we’re going to be targeting and my goal, our goal in partnering with SSM is to start that tomorrow.”

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