ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida's Fire Marshal is pushing for the CDC to include firefighters in the first round of COVID-19 vaccine distributions, citing that they are often on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Firefighters are currently included in the CDC's second round of coronavirus vaccine distribution.
However, firefighters often provide the first line of defense for people. In Florida, over 80 percent of their calls are medical services and over 34,000 Florida firefighters are paramedic or EMT-certified. With that, major fire service organizations believe that firefighters should be in the highest priority tier to get the vaccine.
"On a daily basis, we're running calls that involve COVID-19 positive patients," Wayne Bernoska, President of the Florida Professional Firefighters, said. "One of my greatest fears is when I come home from work after treating patients that may be COVID positive is that I don't bring it home with me to my family."
Major fire service organizations are now publically calling on the CDC to reconsider its guidelines and put firefighters in the highest priority tier. Florida's Fire Marshall fired off a letter to the CDC saying in part, "Frankly, treating our heroes as though all they do is shoot water from a truck demonstrates an incredible lack of understanding of what is expected of today's professional firefighter."
Bernoska added that "the fear we had that is by not including the fire service as part of the emergency medical services, is that you were really limiting the amount of people you are looking at vaccinating."
The CDC guidelines are just that -- guidelines. Florida can develop their own plan for distributing the vaccine. In a statement, a spokesperson for Florida's Emergency Management Division said that first responders are a priority group and they will be prioritized as Florida receives future doses of the vaccine.
However, Governor Ron DeSantis has previously said that "we want to get as much vaccine for our citizens as possible but we know we will not, nor will any state, have enough to vaccinate everyone off the boat."
FOX 35 has reached out to the CDC to see if it plans on moving firefighters higher up on the priority tier.
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