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Vaccine provides hope for EMS crews in 2021, even as some say they had trouble getting the shot at first

Some EMS crews say it took pressure from the state & "3 weeks of raising the alarm through the public, through media, through our elected officials" to get shot

Nathan Harig of Cumberland Goodwill EMS in Carlisle received the Moderna shot.

Dawn Ray of Lancaster EMS received the Pfizer vaccination.

Now both are asking everyone to get their vaccinations when they can, to help in 2021 to bring an end to the unyielding number of COVID-19 patients that have entered their ambulances throughout the year 2020.

"I would just really encourage everyone to try to get the vaccination if they're able to. We're working under a new normal. However, with the vaccination it may just improve what we're currently dealing with," said Ray. "The stress and anxiety of dealing with all these sick patients and the added extra work that we're doing, to not let our guard down now and hopefully there's some end in sight to this pandemic."

However, some EMS crews said they had trouble getting doses of the vaccine until Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health issued an order for vaccine providers to set aside 10% of their doses for providers, such as EMS. Under the state's three-phased rollout of the vaccine, frontline health care personnel and high risk persons were listed as first in line as hospitals began to receive and administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Many EMS companies, however, are not directly affiliated with hospitals and are contracted out. 

"It really took that pressure and it really took the state kind of really saying, hey you need to do this stuff and set aside 10% of your doses for a lot of other partners to suddenly say 'okay yes we're ready to do this now.' It was a struggle to get there. It took us about 3 weeks of raising the alarm through the public, through media, through our elected officials before we really saw movement on this," said Harig.

Ray said she felt her crew did begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in a timely manner, but admitted it was delayed by about 2 weeks in the initial rollout as hospitals focused on ICU and emergency room workers. 

"They've been very cooperative on trying to get us onboard and trying to get them done in a timely fashion. It was just not being employees of the hospital was making it a little more difficult," she said. 

Both Harig and Ray however said what is important is vaccinated all health care workers and those who are at high risk. They also emphasized the need for everyone to get one as soon as the vaccine is available to them. 

"I had no adverse reactions, not even a sore arm," said Ray.

"It's a very small pinch. It actually feels less than a flu shot when they administers it," said Harig who said he did have a sore arm after his. "It was quick. It was simple."

Ray also said 'there is a mild sense of relief that the vaccination is out' among EMS crew members as they continue to respond to COVID-19 calls. Harig reminded everyone to listen to experts and not 'social media hype' about the vaccine, adding that together we can bring an end to the pandemic but that it takes a lot of people getting vaccinated to do that. 

Both experts also reminded the public that COVID-19 cases continue and that the general public likely won't be vaccinated until spring or summer. Therefore, they remind everyone it is important to follow safety guidelines especially over the next few months.

"If you were kind of easing up into 2021 thinking that COVID-19 was last ear's problem, that's a really dangerous attitude to have," Harig said. 

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