First responders get first shots as COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across Upper Valley

  • Aaron Lamperti a member of the Norwich Fire Department and FAST squad prepares to receive his COVID- 19 vaccination at Mt. Ascutney Hospital in Windsor, Vt., on Dec. 18, 2020. Gisele Martell, right, prepares to administer the shoot while Adrienne Holland, left, waits for her recipient for the vaccine, both are nurses at the hospital. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Dr. Ed Merrens, Dartmouth-Hitchcock ’s chief clinical officer, receives his COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 in Lebanon, N.H. Occupational Medicine nurse Lisa Brown administered the shot. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Beth Preston, a member of the Strafford FAST squad, receives information about the COVID-19 vaccine she is about to get at Mt. Ascutney Hospital on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Windsor, VT. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Jennifer Hauck

  • After receiving their COVID-19 vaccines Tom Williamson, left, on the Hartland rescue squad, Don Scullin of Reading Fire and Rescue and John Lloyd, on the Strafford FAST squad wait for fifteen minutes after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination at Mt Ascutney Hospital in Windsor, Vt., on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/18/2020 9:47:09 PM
Modified: 12/18/2020 9:46:56 PM

WINDSOR — Firefighters and emergency medical technicians from the Vermont side of the Upper Valley navigated towering snowbanks along the way to Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center on Friday morning to roll up their sleeves, get a jab in the arm and become among the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

As they stood in line in an office building near the hospital, first responders expressed enthusiasm and some apprehension at being among the first to take this step toward ending the pandemic.

John Lloyd, an EMT with Strafford’s FAST squad, said he was “very excited” to be getting the shot.

Lloyd said the vaccine rollout, which began with front-line health care workers and first responders this week, has been a bright spot in a difficult year, which has included working as a wildlife biologist from a basement office at home during the pandemic, his son — a student at The Sharon Academy — learning from home three days a week, and missing time with friends and family.

“It feels like progress,” said Lloyd, as he waited in line for his shot.

The first doses of the vaccine arrived in the Twin States on Monday.

Several Upper Valley hospitals began vaccinations on Wednesday, with more planned in the coming days and weeks. In conjunction with national pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens, residents and workers at long-term care facilities are slated to begin receiving shots this month.

First responders in New Hampshire — who are not getting vaccinated at hospitals — are slated to begin receiving vaccines on Dec. 29, state officials said in a news conference on Thursday.

As a “rational science person,” 55-year-old Aaron Lamperti, an EMT for the Norwich Fire Department, said he’s been waiting for the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Lamperti said he hasn’t responded to many calls that involve COVID-19 infections, although in some cases the patient’s COVID-19 status was unknown. He and other members of the department also have helped deliver groceries for Dan & Whit’s to people in quarantine, and he assumes that included some people who were infected.

Lamperti and others who have received one dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will need to come back for a second in 21 days to get the full effect of the inoculation.

Both this Pfizer vaccine and another COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna that the Food and Drug Administration authorized Friday require two doses for more than 90% efficacy.

Lamperti said that once he gets his second Pfizer dose and gives himself a couple weeks to develop immunity to the disease, he will feel it’s possible to return to at least one activity he otherwise wouldn’t be doing this winter — serving on the ski patrol at Suicide 6 in Pomfret.

“I wasn’t going to go until I was vaccinated,” Lamperti said as he waited in line.

West Fairlee firefighter John Jeinnings, 45, said he found the idea of getting a new vaccine to be a “little nerve-wracking.”

But, he said, it was worth what seems to be a low risk of an adverse reaction to have some additional protection both when he responds to medical calls as a firefighter and when he works his day job selling fire alarm systems.

Jeinnings also said he hopes the vaccine helps bring an end to the pandemic, which has caused stress for his wife, a school nurse in Hartland, and for his 10- and 8-year-old children. The 10-year-old has had the “hardest time,” Jeinnings said. He “worries about it all the time.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center began vaccinating front-line workers against COVID-19 this week. Hillary Way, an advance practice registered nurse in DHMC’s medical ICU who has cared for COVID-19 patients, was the first at the Lebanon hospital to get the shot.

Way, 33, said it’s been a tough year, navigating all the professional and personal changes the pandemic has brought, as well as the emotions, fear and uncertainty that have come with them.

“It’s hard to get away from COVID,” she said, after receiving her first shot during a media event inside the hospital on Thursday afternoon.

“I hope this is a step back toward some degree of normal,” she said of the vaccine.

Like Way, Laura Lornitzo, a nurse manager in the medical intensive care unit, also spoke about the mental and physical exhaustion wrought by the pandemic. Lornitzo, who was the second person to receive the shot at DHMC on Thursday, said the vaccine “could not come at a better time.”

“It’s incredible to realize this day is here,” she said. It “gives me a lot of hope.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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