Critical vaccinations begin for City frontline employees.

From left: Firefighter/Paramedic Robert Wyatt, 7 years of City service, administers the Moderna vaccine to Capt. Matthew Thompson, 20 years, Jan. 8 at Fire Station 4.

Photos by John Burnes, Alive! editor; Juan and
Veronica Guerra for Alive!; and courtesy the City of LA

As the City neared its 11th month of the pandemic, Alive! visited Fire Station 4 downtown Jan. 8. The first round of the vaccine in LA is being administered to healthcare workers and first responders, including the LAFD.

The First City Employee Injections

In late December, the City received 3,200 Moderna vaccines for initial distribution to first responders.

Los Angeles Firefighters and Paramedics became the City’s first frontline workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 28. The first vaccinations were administered at Fire Station 4 in Downtown Los Angeles.

The City began vaccinating healthcare workers Dec. 30. Photo courtesy the City of LA

“We can never do enough to express our gratitude for the courage, sacrifice, service, and selflessness of our firefighters, paramedics, and first responders — the extraordinary Angelenos who put it all on the line to administer COVID-19 tests, protect public health, and save lives,” Mayor Garcetti said. “The brave members of our LAFD have earned their place at the front of the line for this vaccine, and even as we stay vigilant in the face of surging cases, today gives us hope for an end in sight to this deadly pandemic.”

Two more sites were set up at Fire Stations in West LA and in the San Fernando Valley.

The City is working closely with the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health (DPH) to leverage existing infrastructure — for testing and flu shot distribution — to strengthen countywide vaccine efforts. As part of this collaboration, the LAFD deployed mobile vaccination units to skilled nursing facilities within the City, and offered COVID-19 vaccinations for emergency healthcare practitioners.

To prepare for this effort, LAFD has obtained medical grade freezers and refrigerators for storage and started training paramedics to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, in partnership with the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy.

The City’s Testing Program

The City, in partnership with CORE and the LAFD, operated one of the largest municipal COVID-19 free testing programs in the country, including the largest testing administration site in the nation at Dodger Stadium. At press time, the testing function at Dodger Stadium has been converted into administering vaccines.

The City launched its testing program March 20, 2020 to test first responders and vulnerable individuals. Free testing was offered to all residents, with or without symptoms, whether or not they have insurance. For current testing information or to make an appointment, please visit the City of Los Angeles Free Covid-19 Testing site.

Vaccination on Location

The Moderna vaccine.

The supervisor of the vaccine operation at Fire Station 4, LAFD RN and EMS Educator Robert Heaton, told Alive! Jan. 8 that the nonprofit CORE – Community Organized Relief Effort (actor Seam Penn’s organization) – helped manage registration and processing. Onsite CORE staffers Chez Stock and Kate Mason managed the “paperwork” and strict authorization of each person to receive the vaccine. The LAFD was coordinating with the California Immunization Registry (CAIR) for recordkeeping.

After signing in using a QR code and completing the processing, Firefighters and employees received the vaccine, and then waited in a safe space to manage any unforeseen adverse reactions. Recipients were to wait either 15 or 30 minutes after injection, depending on their history of injection reactions. After the vaccination, recipients checked into the CDC’s V-safe smartphone-based health checker to monitor their reaction.

Vaccine Rollout

At press time at the end of January, the 1A phase of the vaccine rollout continues at Dodger stadium with the administering of the Moderna vaccine to healthcare workers and other frontline City employees. Public Works/Street Services essential workers began receiving the vaccine Jan. 20.

Eligibility Rollout

The Moderna vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective in large studies that involved diverse groups of people, preventing 95 percent of cases of COVID-19 disease, according to the City’s Emergency Management Dept. Website.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be free for everyone and will be offered to different groups in phases. Vaccinations have begun, and limited groups are already being vaccinated. The vaccine is likely to be available to the general public in Spring/Summer 2021. At press time, the schedule is fluid and could be updated by the time you read this.

Please visit LA County’s Dept. of Public Health Vaccine Distribution webpage to see which groups are currently eligible.

Please, also talk to your healthcare provider, or sign up for email updates from the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health to find out when the vaccine will be available to you.

First to receive their vaccinations: the LAFD