NEW YORK - The city on Tuesday began vaccinating firefighters against the coronavirus.
The first round of firefighters to receive the vaccine were those that respond to medical calls. City EMTs and paramedics were among the first members of the department to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week.
The first of two shots required are being distributed within the FDNY out of three locations: one in Queens, one on Randall’s Island and at FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn.
“What we’ve seen, in these next several days, we have a pretty full schedule of members wanting to be vaccinated,” said Tom Richardson, Chief of Fire Operations. “So, as they become more educated and they understand the vaccine, and they talk to their family members, and we’ve also encouraged them to seek council from their personal physicians as well, to make sure they have all of their questions answered. Because of that, we’ve seen a pretty good response."
FDNY Lieutenant John Leary and Firefighter Martha Brekke received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine today along with other FDNY CFR-D Firefighters. Read more: https://t.co/x84lZBSKQh pic.twitter.com/FvG1fRwp0P— FDNY (@FDNY) December 29, 2020
Martha Brekke was one of the first firefighters with the department to receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
"I got it because I want to protect the people that I love, the people I work with, the people that they love," Brekke said.
Brekke was able to get the shot because she’s also a certified first responder. They get priority for working alongside the department’s EMTs and paramedics.
Lieutenant John Leary, another certified first responder, also got his shot on Tuesday.
"For me, I think it's the right thing to do. I think people should do it," he said. "If you dont believe in it or you're not sure about it yet, do your research."
Following the first immunizations before noon, the union representing firefighters applauded NYC health officials for prioritizing its members.
“I have every confidence that this vaccine will keep New York City firefighters healthy and safe in the course of their duties,” the Uniformed Firefighters Association said in a statement. "The vaccine’s arrival and distribution is the turning point in the war on COVID-19, and this is pivotal to getting society reopened. We applaud the New York State health officials who have prioritized Firefighters, as our safety is of vital importance to this City."
More than 5,800 FDNY members have contracted COVID-19 since last spring, officials say. It’s more than a third of the fire department, including EMS and firefighters. Twelve FDNY members have died from the virus.
Firefighters are not required to get the vaccine, but the FDNY says the goal is to encourage every member to get it.
However, only a little bit more than 60% of the fire department has opted in to get the vaccine as of last week, according to the FDNY.
About three weeks ago, a survey by the Uniformed Firefighters Association found that 55 percent of 2,000 members polled said they wouldn't get the vaccine.
FDNY officials insist a lot’s changed since then.
“With the help of our chief medical officer Dr. David Prezant, we were able to put together a very good, succinct fact sheet about the vaccine," said Tom Richardson, the FDNY's chief of fire operations.
“I think I would anticipate and hope over time that our members will see the benefits outweigh the risks of not taking this vaccine.” said John Sudnick, the FDNY's chief of department.
Members of the NYPD were another group in line to get vaccinated as early as Tuesday, but that rollout has been delayed indefinitely because the department hasn't received enough doses, according to the Detectives' Endowment Association.
The Police Benevolent Association blasted the decision not to include the NYPD in the first vaccination efforts.
"Once again, politicians in Albany and City Hall are wasting time with bureaucratic gymnastics instead of looking at the reality on the ground," PBA president Pat Lynch tweeted. "New York City police officers aren't just on the front line. We cover every part of the front line: from hospitals and housing complexed to the corner store."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday police officers will be vaccinated once the city receives guidance from the state.
"I want to see us get to our first responders as quickly as possible," de Blasio said. "So we're waiting for that state guidance to be clarified, and as soon as it is we'll get that effort underway."
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article attributed the statement to the FDNY. It’s from the Uniformed Firefighters Association.