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COVID Vaccine: FDNY Distributes First Doses To Firefighters As Virus Spreads Among Members

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A week after vaccinations began for EMTs on Randall's Island, the FDNY started distributing doses to firefighters Tuesday at its Brooklyn headquarters.

Twelve members of the FDNY have died from COVID-19 and about 600 are currently out on medical leave. The department hopes the vaccine will help prevent those numbers from increasing.

MORE: EMS Workers To Start Receiving COVID Vaccines, But Not Everyone Is On Board

Last week, Uniformed Fire Fighters Association President Andrew Ansboro said the virus is spreading within the firehouse.

"It's not actually being spread from patient to firefighter or vice versa," Ansboro said.

The first firefighter inoculations target those who work on engine companies, as opposed to those who work on ladder companies. The engines respond to medical calls and are most at risk of exposure by patients.

The plan is to vaccinate 20 FDNY employees per hour, every day from noon to 8 p.m. until all uniformed members have been vaccinated.


Earlier this month, a concerning survey by the UFA found only 45% of firefighters were comfortable taking the vaccine. Union representatives believe education efforts have since boosted those numbers.

"The amount of appointments the department already has scheduled is a very hopeful showing that we are going to be well above that 45% number," the UFA's Michael Schreiber said.

FDNY members who received the shot publicly said they also wanted to help alleviate fears.

"I really hope that the rest of my family here at the department comes on board and gets this vaccine. I understand people are hesitant to get it, but I really hope that they follow our suit and follow us and get this," said FDNY paramedic Verena Kansog.

Lt. John Leary was one of the first firefighters to get his shot.

"I felt relieved. Right now, my family, personally, we're going through a little bit of a health crisis," Leary said.

The NYPD was supposed to be next in line to receive the vaccine, but now there seems to be a delay. Commissioner Dermot Shea said he was hoping to have the first shipment by this week, and is now relying on the city and state health departments to provide a better timeline.

"I want us to get to our first responders as quickly as possible, so we are waiting for state guidance to be clarified and as soon as it is, we will get that effort underway," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch released a statement Tuesday, saying the union is "continuing to press for vaccines to be made available to police officers as soon as possible."

"Once again, politicians in Albany and City Hall are wasting time with bureaucratic gymnastics instead of looking at the reality on the ground," his statement began. "New York City police officers aren't just on the front line. We cover every part of the front line: from hospitals and housing complexes to the corner store. We have more daily contact with New Yorkers than any other city agency."

The mayor said right now the focus remains on health care workers and nursing homes.

"More and more people vaccinated. More and more categories are being approved by the state of New York," de Blasio said.

So far, more than 67,000 New Yorkers have been vaccinated. The city health department said it has received resupplies this week of the vaccine and is waiting to hear from the federal government what the allotment will be in January.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report


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