SEQUIM — Some Sequim-area first responders received their first of two vaccinations for COVID-19 this week.
Staff with Jamestown Family Health Clinic provided the Moderna vaccine at the Clallam County Fire District 3 headquarters for fire district staff and volunteers, Olympic Ambulance employees and Sequim Police Department staff.
Blaine Zechenelly, a volunteer EMT and disaster planner, and volunteer EMT Sandy Boudrou were the first to receive the vaccine.
Zechenelly said he’s not in the high-risk category for the virus and is relatively healthy, but with a grand-baby on the way, he said he wants to be safe and also able to help the Sequim community if needed.
“If I want to take care of the community, I want to get it,” he said. “If (the virus spreads quickly), then I’ll be one of the people who can help.”
Capt. Derrell Sharp, the fire district’s medical safety officer, said Brent Simcosky, director of health services at the clinic, reached out to him about two weeks ago about potential vaccinations availability, and on Christmas Eve asked to set up dates this week.
Sharp sent out information about the vaccinations in recent weeks; vaccinations are voluntary for staff, he noted.
Of 110 volunteer, career and non-emergency staffers, 39 signed up for a vaccine, he said.
“I think the numbers will increase,” Sharp said.
“I’m getting it because I’m going into homes of the most vulnerable people, and I don’t want to contribute to the spread.”
Second doses are scheduled 28 days apart from the first, medical officials said.
Sharp said the district tried to schedule vaccinations so the second doses are on the different shifts’ last working days in case they experienced side effects from the second dose, such as headaches and/or fevers.
When asked for comment about why they opted not to take the vaccine, some fire officials chose not to comment or were unavailable.
Sharp said many fire staff weren’t against it outright, but they’d like to wait.
Fire district staff can change their mind to receive or not to receive the vaccine, he said, and personnel also can schedule with Jamestown for one.
Dr. Molly Martin, deputy medical director for the Jamestown Family Health Clinic, said the clinic received the Moderna vaccination because it doesn’t require strict storage temperatures.
Last week, health and eye clinic staffers were given the option to take the vaccination, she said.
“I understand the fear of unknowns,” Martin said. “The vaccine has been developed under sound medical research.”
She said the theory behind mRNA (Messenger RNA) vaccines — some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States — has been around for more than 20 years.
Simcosky said Jamestown Family Health Clinic will tentatively begin community vaccinations at two locations the week of Jan. 11 for residents ages 75 and older, with more details to come.
Sharp said he believes after reading the vaccines’ studies, he feels “no corners were cut,” and that getting a vaccine “seems like the right thing to do.”
Zechenelly said people should consult a primary care physician first to see if there are any issues with taking the vaccine.
Medical officials said clinic trials have the Moderna vaccine at about 94 percent effective.
For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Health website, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, and/or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration site.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].