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Youngstown firefighters and EMS employees receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Health Commissioner Erin Bishop said it is possible that the general public could start receiving the vaccine as early as next month.

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown Fire Department Chief Barry Finley was the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the Youngstown City Health District today.

Last week, the health department received 800 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which YFD firefighters and American Medical Response EMS employees began receiving today. On Thursday, residents and staff of congregate living facilities will begin receiving the vaccine. 

Finley received the vaccine from Anthea Mickens, director of nursing at Youngstown City Health District. Regional Director of AMR EMS Edward Powers was the second person to receive the vaccine from Mickens.

Both Finley and Powers said they were feeling fine while they waited during the 15 minute observation period after receiving the vaccine. In a couple of weeks, they will receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Finley said he and Powers decided to take the vaccine first since they are in charge of their departments and wanted those who worked in their departments to know it is safe. 

“This is what first responders do,” Finley said. “We’re first in everything.”

Powers said it is important for them to lead by example since there is a lot of fear about the vaccine because it was developed in record time. He said the vaccine is the first step in eradicating the coronavirus.

“I think it’s good for people to see that it’s safe,” Powers said. 

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said he wants Youngstown residents to see the vaccine is available and wants to take away the fear about it. 

Brown said it is good for the community to see leaders they know and trust get the vaccine first rather than just seeing it on the national news. 

“I think the more visuals you see, the better people have a sense of calmness,” Brown said. 

Brown said he would get the vaccine when it becomes available to him. 

“I want to represent the citizens of Youngstown,” Brown said. “I want them to know that if I'm taking the vaccine, I want them to do the same.”

Health Commissioner Erin Bishop said about 40 firefighters and EMS employees are expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine throughout today. 

About 122 residents of Gateways to Better Living will receive the vaccine at the Eugenia Atkinson Recreation Center, 903 Otis St., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.

Bishop said the health department will follow the phases set by the state for whom to vaccinate. 

Phase 1A includes healthcare workers and personnel, EMS responders, people with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders and residents and staff at congregate living facilities — including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, psychiatric hospitals and Ohio veterans homes. 

The health department is not administering the vaccine to nursing homes because all nursing homes in Youngstown are receiving vaccines from CVS or Walgreens. 

Bishop said the health department is preparing for Phase 1B, which will include people who are 65 and older and people living with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders. 

“After that, we have to go by what Ohio is doing,” Bishop said. 

Bishop said it is possible that the general public could start receiving the vaccine as early as next month. 

When the vaccine is available to the general public, the city plans to have vaccine clinics throughout the city so people have easier access. The health department did this with various testing locations throughout the city. 

Powers said YFD and AMR EMS will assist in the clinics when they are open to the public to help vaccinate people in Youngstown. Paramedics are trained to do vaccinations, and an ambulance will be posted at each clinic location. 

“We will need all hands on deck to get the hundreds of thousands of people vaccinated that need to get vaccinated,” Powers said.