San Ramon's Iron Horse Middle School served as a coronavirus vaccine staging ground for first responders throughout Contra Costa County on Wednesday, where at least 240 firefighters and emergency medical services personnel received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The very first round of coronavirus vaccines available in Contra Costa County went straight to frontline health care workers; however, first responders were also placed high on the priority list, with approximately 70 members of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District receiving vaccinations on Wednesday.
"I think that the biggest thing for people to understand is that this vaccine, although it is emergency use authorized, from a molecular biological standpoint it is very safe and people should not be scared to get vaccinated," said SRVFPD Medical Director Dr. Malcolm Johnson -- an emergency room physician at John Muir.
"If we can get people to get onboard to get vaccinated, I think you will see a lot of the stuff going on in the country right now, especially economically, begin to change. But until we can get on top of this virus and get everybody vaccinated we're going to continue having issues," he added.
Using vaccines provided from Contra Costa County Health Services, SRVFPD EMS personnel administered the inoculations to fellow first responders, with the staging ground serving as a vaccination location for first responders throughout the county -- not just those found in the San Ramon Valley.
"We've never done this before, no one's ever done this before," Battalion Chief John Duggan told DanvilleSanRamon.com. "The theory on (first responders being vaccinated first) is we don't want the people who are going in, particularly in our convalescent homes where we have high incidences of COVID positive, and cross contaminating our own personnel."
"One of the worst things we could do is have a contaminated person in our ranks staying at our firehouse and contaminating nine other people," he added.
Using a drive-thru method to administer the vaccinations, Duggan explained that after making an appointment -- spreading out vaccinations to make sure that the staging ground wouldn't be overwhelmed -- first responders would drop by throughout the day.
After being screened and then inoculated, patients would then wait in a holding area for 15-30 minutes to ensure that they aren't having an averse or allergic reaction to the vaccine and are then free to go on about their day.
Vaccine recipients will then need to return in 28 days to receive their second dose of the Moderna vaccine, after which the vaccine is said to be 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control -- full effectiveness is said to begin around 14 days after the second dose.
Realizing the difficulty of trying to get all of the region's first responders vaccinated in one day, Duggan said that a second wave of personnel will receive their first round of vaccinations on Jan. 7.