Rebecca Quinn, paramedic, right, fills out her charts Aug. 23 as her partner Nathaniel Lombardi, an advanced EMT, center, trains a new hire, basic EMT Chris Wildes at Delta Ambulance in Waterville. Lombardi, the field training officer, instructs Wildes on how to use the child restraint system. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The Augusta Fire Department and Waterville-based Delta Ambulance will administer COVID-19 vaccine to public safety workers throughout Kennebec County.

Those two public safety entities were selected to receive and administer COVID-19 vaccines to police, fire and emergency medical services workers in Kennebec County. They expect to have the vaccine in Augusta within a couple of days and plan to start giving shots in about a week.

Augusta firefighters will administer shots to communities in southern Kennebec County, while Delta personnel will handle northern Kennebec County.

Though details are still being finalized, Augusta Fire Battalion Chief Steve Leach, who is overseeing Augusta’s vaccine operation, said the city hopes to give shots to public safety workers at a drive-thru location. That would mean people would never have to get out of their vehicles to get the shot.

“We’re working on a piece of property in Augusta that we’re hoping to finalize in the next couple of days, where we may be able to do some drive-thru vaccine clinics,” Leach said Monday. “We’re going to do it, initially, for public safety workers.

“Once we get those done, we most likely will transition to other groups,” Leach added. “I’d like to see us continue it for the public as well.”

Delta Ambulance officials plan to initially give the shots to public safety workers inside their Waterville headquarters. They could could explore doing so at another site, especially if Delta later ends up also administering the shots to people other than public safety workers.

For now, according to Chip Getchell, quality improvement manager for Delta, the company has committed to administering it to public safety workers in Kennebec County, but could consider others if asked to do so.

“We’re ready to receive the vaccine, initially we’re going to do the vaccines at our headquarters in Waterville,” Getchell said. “We have a facility where we have space to socially distance.”

He said public safety departments, including volunteer fire departments, will be contacted to schedule their workers and volunteers for the shots.

The rescue workers will get the Moderna vaccine, shipments of which began to arrive in Maine on Monday.

An advantage of that vaccine compared to the Pfizer vaccine that some Maine hospitals, including MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta have received, is it may be stored in standard freezers. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored in ultra-cold freezers at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

Leach said the Moderna vaccine is initially stored in a freezer, but it can be stored for up to 30 days in a refrigerator.

“So it’s going to be easier as far as setting up clinics,” he said.

In Augusta, Leach said, the first vaccines will likely be administered to city firefighters and paramedics, as sort of an in-house test run to work out any kinks. Then it will be given to licensed health care providers, and staff and residents at long-term care facilities.

Next on the priority list to receive the vaccination, Leach said, would be other public safety workers, such as police and essential workers — including educators — and then people older than age 65 or who have higher health risk factors.

Leach said about 5,000 Moderna vaccines have been earmarked for licensed health care workers in Maine. He said after the initial delivery, he expects they will get deliveries every week.

Leach said offering to administer the shots should not prompt concern that the Augusta Fire Department workers who’ll be giving the shots will have significantly increased exposure to people, some of whom could have the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. He said workers doing the shots will wear protective gear.

Leach said the department will be able to bill the insurance companies of those getting shots for the vaccine, which is expected to cost about $45 per person, and is administered in two doses delivered a few weeks apart. He said the city of Augusta will cover the cost of its public safety workers getting the shots.

Augusta also will have some increased overtime costs to pay staff to administer the shots, but should be able to get reimbursed for at least some of that cost. Leach said most required supplies will be provided, with the city providing only gloves and containers for disposing of needles.

Dave Groder, acting fire chief in Augusta, said Augusta and Delta were chosen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Maine CDC as vaccination points for first responders in the county. He said the Augusta Fire Department may also potentially assist medical facilities in administering the vaccine to the public, if needed.

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