The Westlake Fire Department and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health joined forces Dec. 30 to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to more than 700 EMS personnel and other first responders from numerous West Side suburbs.
Board of Health personnel distributed the vaccines at Westlake Fire Station No. 2 on Columbia Road.
According to the city, this was the third such event, dubbed by the county health board as a POD (Point of Dispensing.) The first two were held at fire stations in Shaker Heights and Independence. All three took place the week of Dec. 27. Health officials estimated roughly 300 first responders received vaccines at the other two sites, making the Westlake POD the most ambitious of the three, said Westlake spokesperson Robert Rozboril.
“Today, we have a very aggressive goal of vaccinating those 700 individuals,” Westlake Fire Chief Jim Hughes said the day of the POD.
The city describes the POD as resulting from a partnership, not with just the health board, but also several Westshore fire departments, including Lakewood, Fairview Park, Rocky River and Bay Village.
Personnel administering the vaccines wore personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, and received vaccinations before the POD.
“The vaccines will be very beneficial to making sure that our safety forces stay healthy while they’re responding to people throughout the year,” said Mayor Dennis Clough. “This vaccine is a great step to making sure that we can return to normal, hopefully by the beginning of the summer.”
The county indicated additional PODs are planned.
“We anticipate in the coming months we will have public (dispersal) of the vaccine and we may be using the fire stations again,” said Kevin Brennan, health board communications officer. “It likely will depend on the weather at that time. If it’s warmer weather, we will do our best to do it outside. But if it’s colder and raining, we may ask the fire stations for cooperation again.”
The health board would prefer to do open-air vaccinations as they reduce the risk of transmission as opposed to indoor distribution sites.
“We really appreciate the cooperation from the fire stations in letting us use the drive-through bays,” Brennan said. “Obviously, we can open the doors on either end. We can keep people in their cars so we can limit contact.”
Brennan was especially complimentary to Westlake's fire chief, stating that from a logistical standpoint, the city department performed more than admirably.
"It was a very successful day," Brennan said.
Brennan emphasized each individual must make up his or her mind regarding receiving the vaccine.
"First and foremost," he said, “it's a personal choice."
From the board’s perspective, health care professionals have studied the vaccine carefully and believe it to be safe, Brennan said.
He added that people who experienced allergic reactions to past vaccines or have underlying health conditions such as autoimmune diseases may want to check with their personal physician before taking any coronavirus vaccine.
"But the vaccine is one quick way to get things back to normal," Brennan said.
Vaccine recipients were asked to park just outside the Westlake distribution site for 15 to 20 minutes in case they experienced common side effects such as mild fever or stomach upset.
Because of the type of vaccine used, there is no need for a second shot in this instance.
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