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Paving the Way for Vaccination
By now, there’s no doubt that the duties of first responders went well beyond their job descriptions during this pandemic era. And when it came to vaccination, being on the front lines also meant being first in line.
January 12, 2021 marked the opening of the COVID-19 vaccination hub at the Worcester Senior Center on Providence Street. That day, both Michael Lavoie and Steve Sargent, chiefs of WFD and WPD respectively, received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. For this pair, the act of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine was an act of community as much as it was an act of healthcare—especially amidst reluctance and anxiety in first responder communities elsewhere in Worcester County.
A survey of the Auburn Police Department in January 2021 revealed that fewer than half of its members planned to get the vaccination—with the chief of police among them. Auburn Police Chief Andrew J. Sluckis Jr. was an opponent of the vaccine and a likely influence on the members of his department. In an interview with MassLive, the 56-year-old chief said: “I’ll take my 99-to-1 odds of not getting the vaccine… you couldn’t pay me to take it.” However, he then clarified that he supports the vaccination of front-line first responders, such as dual role firefighter-paramedics who come in contact with positive patients regularly, and that his opinion on the vaccine would likely change if he were in that role. On January 2, 2021, authorities in Massachusetts estimated there was a significant number—not quite 50%—of first responders in the state opting out of vaccination.
Amidst this polarization and doubt, pro-vaccination department chiefs (like Lavoie and Sargent) and other first responders paved the way for their communities.