First up were firefighters Joanie Cullinan and Brian Hester, both of whom have faced serious health situations. Cullinan has recovered from Stage 3 Melanoma and become an effective advocate for occupational cancer awareness. Hester, a firefighter since 2002, became sick with COVID-19 in the spring and did a grand tour of local health facilities over 10 weeks fighting off the respiratory disease. Feeling lucky to be at the vaccine clinic, Hester said he is still dealing with after-effects from COVID-19 but hopes to return to work sooner than later.
This was no private doctor’s office visit. The firefighters, in familiar surroundings at the firehouse, received their vaccinations with bemused expressions as camera crews from local TV news stations captured the whole thing for posterity.
Hester said getting the shot was no problem. “I didn’t feel a thing,” he quipped.
— swellesley (@swellesley) January 12, 2021
Cullinan is still going in for screenings in the aftermath of her cancer treatments, but is back to work and feeling strong. She refers to herself as “a professional patient at this point,” and says getting the vaccine made this a good day, allowing firefighters “to protect our families and keep everyone else safe.”
When asked for her message to other first responders about getting the vaccine, she said “everybody’s got to do what’s right for them,” but that it was the right choice for her, her family, and colleagues. Naturally, some of those colleagues headed out on a call when we were there, sirens blaring upon their departure.
Three other Wellesley firefighters and five Wellesley police officers were also vaccinated, with more set to receive shots later this week.
Health Department Director Lenny Izzo, who was on site, said “we’re prepared, we’re ready for this.” He and the rest of the staff have spent recent weeks working out the various challenges that the town faces in administering the vaccine, including the transport and cold storage of it, as well as scheduling injections. While much has been made of storage challenges, he says the town has had no issue handling that end of things.
Izzo told us during a recent interview that vaccines will be dispensed in a staggered process, to ensure that not too many first responders could potentially suffer bad reactions at once.
For this first round, health officials received 100 vials of the Moderna vaccine and expect another allocation within a week to complete the first responder vaccinations. Ann Marie McCauley, the town’s public health nurse supervisor, said during Monday’s Board of Health meeting that the Health Department plans to use every drop of vaccine during six clinics over the course of this week, and still won’t have enough for all first responders.
First responders, along with healthcare workers and those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among those designated by the state to be vaccinated at the start.