NEWBURYPORT – More than 450 first responders from across the region received the first of two Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses last week during what participants called a very successful two-day clinic at the city’s community center. 

Those who administered the doses to firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and harbormasters received their first doses earlier in the week. In all, 480 people became among the first in the area to receive the potentially lifesaving vaccine, according to Newburyport Health Director Frank Giacalone. 

“They were flawless, we didn’t have any issues,” Giacalone said of the clinics.

Newburyport Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire said all first responders who wanted to be vaccinated were able to get their first dose.

“Everyone worked together,” LeClaire said in a statement. “Health and fire departments and area nurses, the Senior Center and Department of Public Services staff, all under the direction of Mayor (Donna) Holaday, worked hard to ensure the vaccination plan worked smoothly.” 

In addition to Newburyport, communities taking part in the clinic were Amesbury, Salisbury, Merrimac, West Newbury, Newbury, Georgetown and Rowley.

Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said he and the majority of his officers received the vaccine. 

“I think it went really well,” Fowler said, adding that his arm was sore for about a day after the shot but other than that, he felt no ill effects. 

Fowler said once people were vaccinated, they stayed within an observation area for 15 minutes to make sure they were not feeling any adverse effects. 

West Newbury Fire Chief Mike Dwyer also received the vaccine, administered by a Pentucket Regional Middle School nurse. 

“We’re just fortunate to have the opportunity to get our first responders vaccinated,” Dwyer said. 

With the first round of clinics completed, Giacalone said he would speak with his peers in neighboring communities today to determine when and where the second round will take place. 

First responders are part of the first phase of a three-phase rollout of vaccinations. Health care workers dealing with COVID-19 patients were the first group to be vaccinated, followed by those living or working in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The second phase includes anyone over 65 years old, those with preexisting health conditions, educators, grocery store workers and sanitation workers.

The vaccine will be made available to the general public in the third phase, according to state health officials.

Although there are 320 doses remaining from the first clinic, those will not be used for the second first responders clinic but instead for the second phase, Giacalone said. 

Once the second first responder clinic has a date and location, Giacalone said more vaccine will be ordered. He added that there is a quick turnaround from when an order is sent to the state to when the vaccine is delivered. 

As for when the second phase might began, Giacalone said Feb. 1 is the date he keeps hearing from the state. 

Giacalone admitted the vaccine rollout has been less than perfect, saying he would welcome a federalized approach to distribution and vaccinations. 

“In a perfect world, we would love to see that,” Giacalone said, adding that if the U.S. government took control of all aspects of the vaccine rollout, it would relieve much of the pressure he and other local health officials face each day. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” he added. 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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