Major fire service organizations call for priority access to COVID-19 vaccines
The IAFC, IAFF, NVFC and National Association of State Fire Marshals issued a joint statement urging states to give firefighters the same priority as other front-line healthcare workers
By Laura French
CHANTILLY, Va. — Four major fire service organizations have released a joint statement urging governors and state health officials to give firefighters and EMS providers priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) and National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) said in the statement issued Tuesday, "We are vital parts of the national public health system and should be treated at the same priority as other front-line healthcare workers, and hospital staff."
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted Tuesday to give healthcare workers, including EMS providers, and residents of long-term care facilities top priority for the vaccine when it is distributed. However, the IAFC urged governors to ensure all fire and EMS personnel are in the top priority tier, as states will have the final say in how the vaccine is distributed.
"The nation's fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics serve as the first link in the COVID-19 response. These environments are unstructured, unprotected and place public safety personnel in close quarters with COVID-19 patients, causing increased exposure for the responder," the organizations wrote. "Many COVID-19 patients are treated by a fire fighter, EMT or paramedic before they are transported to a medical facility for further care. In addition, fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics often respond to emergencies unrelated to whether the caller has COVID-19 only to later learn that the individual exposed them to the virus."
The authors continue by stating that scientific reports have shown fire and EMS personnel are proportionally at a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general public, and that vaccination is one of the best ways to protect fire and EMS personnel during the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommended the inclusion of both firefighters and EMS personnel in the "Priority Tier 1A" for the vaccine. The four organizations concluded the statement expressing their concerns that this guidance will not be followed, and that states will relegate fire and EMS responders to a lower tier.
Last month, the IAFF sent a letter to the National Governors Association, also asking that fire and EMS personnel be included in the top priority group for the vaccine in each state.