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Dozens of First Responders Get COVID Vaccinations at Fairgrounds

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Dozens of first responders received COVID vaccinations at the Fresno Fairgrounds on Tuesday.

American Ambulance employees rolled up their sleeves as part of a coordinated effort to get front-line workers protected against the deadly virus. The service will continue next week for firefighters and other first responders until everyone who wants a shot gets one.

The Fresno County health department partnered with American Ambulance and the Big Fresno Fair to give EMT and paramedics their shots in the name of public safety.

Dan Lynch, the county’s emergency services director, anticipates that the public will also be able to receive shots at the same location when wider vaccination efforts begin.

“This is a pretty efficient operation they’ve got here and we can move a lot of people through it,” Lynch said.

A box containing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. (GV Wire/David Taub)

EMTs Get a Shot for Safety

“I would hate to be the one to spread it to someone’s loved one. So I’d like to do my part at least.”EMT Chris Tillman

Edward Escobedo, American Ambulance’s operation director, said his company’s crews average more than 30 COVID calls a day.

“There is a sense of safety and a sense of hope that we can continue to do this job, which we’ve been doing for months through this pandemic, with a sense of security,” Escobedo said.

While Escobedo encouraged all American Ambulance employees to get vaccinated, he said it is not mandated.

Front-line first responders signed up online for appointments.

Joshua Brown and Chris Tillman were two of about 300 American Ambulance EMTs scheduled to receive shots this week.

I see what COVID does to people and see what it’s done to the world,” Brown, a four-year EMT who is studying to be a paramedic, said. “It’s a new kind of vaccine, so that’s a little scary. But, every vaccine is new at some point.”

Tillman said he got vaccinated for his own safety, as well as for his family and his patients.

“I would hate to be the one to spread it to someone’s loved one. So I’d like to do my part at least,” Tillman said. “This is one more tool added to the toolbox to stay safe.”

A military veteran, Tillman wasn’t concerned about shot safety.

“I was in the military. I got enough shots. I’m pretty sure this one isn’t going to do anything else,” Tillman said.

Even after their vaccinations, EMTs will still have to wear masks.

“(The vaccine) is 95 percent effective. So there is five percent that is not effective,” Dr. Michelle Campagne, medical director with American Ambulance, said.

County’s Health Officer Pleased with Operation

Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer, dropped by to observe the clinic directly.

He took pride in the relatively mundane process, with five stations set up divided by privacy curtains.

“We want boring. We want this to be a very low stakes, easy, efficient, streamlined operation. We don’t want it to be chaotic. We want this to be the experience that every patient in the county has,” Vohra said. “I think we had enough excitement this year. So I’m glad that this is going as smoothly as it’s going.”

Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra (left) chats with American Ambulance nurse Jennifer Valeri, medical director Dr. Danielle Campagne and county EMT Curtis Jack. (GV Wire/David Taub)

County Using Moderna Vaccine

The Moderna shots were paid for by the federal government and distributed through the state and county.

A sheriff’s deputy escorted the vaccines to the Junior Exhibition building at the fairgrounds. The Moderna vaccine must be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each box of Moderna vaccine contained 10 vials, and each vial is good for 10 shots. They all fit neatly into a cooler that could double as a place to store a lunch.

After receiving the dose, the first responders stuck around for 15 minutes to make sure there were no ill effects from the vaccination.

“There’s a risk with every vaccine. The biggest risk about a vaccine is allergies. Are you going to have an allergic reaction? That’s with any medication you take,” Campagne said.

Medication like Benadryl was on hand just in case.

Because Moderna is a two-shot process, recipients will be back in 28 days to receive the second dose.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email