Firefighters ask for top priority when COVID-19 vaccine arrives

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BEREA, Ky. (WTVQ) – Governor Andy Beshear announced Monday the coronavirus vaccine would first go to long-term care residents and healthcare workers. Firefighters in Kentucky are asking to join that high priority group.

“I don’t have that option of working from home,” says Brent Billings, Berea Fire Department’s Public Information Officer. “I’ve been on shift every single day this year.

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That’s one of the reasons Billings says firefighters deserve to be among the first in line for a coronavirus vaccine.

“I don’t want to put anybody on different levels because I think we’re all on the same team and we’re all shooting for the same goal, but I don’t see a reason for us not to be in that same grouping as the first responders in the hospital right now.”

Billings says first responders, such as firefighters, police, EMT’s and others all come into direct contact with people who don’t even know they have the virus.

“We have had a few cases where we go out to an unknown patient who did not have any symptoms – once they got to the hospital and was in the hospital for a few days, they tested positive, so that came back to us through our contact tracing, so it’s just as high of a risk out there in the field as it is in the hospital where you know if those cases are positive or not,” Billings says.

He says, fortunately, none of the Berea firefighters have gotten coronavirus, but if it were to spread though such a small department, the results could be dire.

“If my department has to shut down, that affects my community and puts them at risk as well because I’m unable to respond to their emergencies.”