By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The Bend Fire Department breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday as 18 firefighters were vaccinated for COVID-19 at St. Charles.
“We have had a handful of our firefighters get COVID-19 and also we’ve had quite a few be exposed,” Trish Connolly, battalion chief of administration for Bend Fire, said.
Firefighters and first responders across Central Oregon began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this week in accordance with the Oregon Health Authority’s phased distribution plan.
“We expect that we will be able to begin vaccinating more first responders in the next few weeks,” Morgan Emerson, with Deschutes County Public Health, said.
That’s a good thing, according to Connolly, because first responders come into contact with the virus often.
“We’ve had times when it has been difficult, when we had several people with exposures who were off,” Connolly said. “It’s been a balancing act for us for sure.”
Some police officers in Deschutes County were able to get vaccinated this week too.
“Our police officers are also included with first responders because they’re often first at the scene and in and out of hospitals,” Emerson said.
It’s not clear how long it will take to get all of Deschutes County’s law enforcement vaccinated, according to Emerson.
Connolly said they expect to have most of their staff vaccinated in a few weeks.
“I think having that protection definitely makes our crews feel safer,” Connolly said.
Around 1,800 health care workers and first responders in Deschutes County have received the vaccine already, according to Emerson.
There are still around 4,700 health care workers and first responders in the county to go.