Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians lined up and rolled up their sleeves at the UnityPoint Health Meriter DeForest clinic on Jan. 21.
First responders received COVID-19 vaccinations, many receiving their second of the two required doses.
Now that their members have been vaccinated, there will be no "operational changes" at the DeForest Windsor Fire Department and EMS, but according to Fire Chief Steve LaFeber, it offers substantial piece of mind.
"It has had a huge impact on us," LaFeber said of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Fire Department and EMS members have at times caught the virus fortunately no one at the department has suffered serious side effects of the potentially-lethal disease.
LaFeber pointed out that they are mindful that they are risking their lives as they go out on calls and that of the members of the DeForest Windsor Fire and EMS services, 75% are volunteer.
Through the pandemic, the department has experienced several layers of additional stress: avoiding infection among their members as they serve the public, avoiding passing the virus to members of the public, fear of potentially lethal infection, concern of long-term post-infection pulmonary side effects that could disqualify a person from duty, and then questions of how many people can be exposed to a potential patient.
Area departments have organized contingency plans in the event that too many members are quarantined at the same time, but so far LaFeber's department has not needed to resort to that backup plan.
When vaccines are in full effect among members, precautions will still be taken to prevent passing the virus to others during calls, but first responders will be able to better focus on the emergency at hand and less on risks to themselves and their own families.