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5 first responders receive the first coronavirus vaccines in DC

D.C. Health arranged for Kaiser Permanente to administer the vaccine at its Northeast D.C. location.

WASHINGTON — Five first responders, in addition to D.C. Health Director Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt, were among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine in D.C. Thursday morning.

As frontline health care providers, the District's COVID-19 Vaccination Plan designates members of D.C. Fire and EMS among the first to receive the vaccine in the District. Within days, the department will be among the first to receive the long-awaited vaccine.

“Today, we have hope. After a long and tragic nine months, help is finally on the way. The First Five are sending a strong message about the importance of this vaccine to protect them, their families and loved ones, their patients and coworkers, and our entire city,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. 

D.C. Health arranged for Kaiser Permanente to administer the vaccine at its Northeast D.C. site. 

“Our frontline health care workers and emergency responders have led our community through this pandemic with courage and compassion, and now we are proud to deliver this vaccine to them. While we must stay vigilant during this nationwide surge in cases, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter," Bowser said.

Among the vaccinated first responders were acting D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly, Dr. Robert Holman, the Department’s Medical Director,  Lts. Joseph Papariello and Keishea Jackson, and Firefighter/EMT Julio Quinteros.

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"The First Five" -- who are all DC residents -- recognized this monumental time in the District’s history and are getting vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but their coworkers, families, and the patients they treat every day.

“I’m getting vaccinated for my city,"  Lt. Jackson said. "In the last nine months, I’ve seen COVID devastate my department. I’ve seen my brothers and sisters go into the hospital. I’ve seen them with severe symptoms – things we never thought we would see. I’m getting vaccinated for my coworkers, I’m getting vaccinated for my family, and I’m getting vaccinated to make a change."

RELATED: Kaiser Permanente preps for vaccine shipment, doctor describes thawing process

Chief Donnelly said he is fully confident in the vaccine’s development process, its safety, and its effectiveness -- as they both recognized that while taking the vaccine is voluntary, it is an important and necessary step in ending the pandemic.

“I am so proud of the work and dedication our members have displayed over the last nine months,” Donnelly said in a release. “We have all been through a lot, and they each deserve to be one of the first in the District to get this vaccine.”

Mayor Bowser and Dr. Nesbitt laid out the District's plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine in a press conference on Dec. 10. Nesbitt said that while the Food and Drug Administration's work to approve a vaccine for emergency use is a good first step, there is still work to be done.

The District's plan calls for a phased-in approach to vaccinations, beginning with Phase 1a, which includes health care workers and first responders such as hospital staff, and long-term care facilities. Nesbitt said that 85,000 people qualify as part of that group in D.C.

Phase 1b would include essential workers, such as school teachers and grocery store employees, and at-risk residents such as people over the age of 65 and adults with high-risk medical conditions. 

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Phase 2 includes the rest of the Phase 1 populations before moving to Phase 3, which is the general public. 

Frontline health care workers including those who work at testing sites and first responders including firefighters and medics will be prioritized for vaccination.

In terms of when people could begin getting vaccinated, Dr. Nesbitt did not offer a timeline. She said that there is still training to do following the government's approval of an emergency use authorization, so people shouldn't expect to get vaccinated right away.

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