Augusta firefighter/paramedic Jeff Dunn, left, receives a COVID-19 vaccination from co-worker Patrick Wynne on Thursday at the Hartford Fire Station in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Augusta Fire Department staffers have been giving COVID-19 vaccinations to public safety workers in southern Kennebec County, and Waterville-based Delta Ambulance has been covering the northern part of the county as the COVID-19 vaccines make their way into a larger population of recipients.

Augusta Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Leach draws a dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe Thursday at the Hartford Fire Station in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Augusta received 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine and started vaccinating EMTs from Augusta and other area departments Wednesday.

When the program is expanded from group 1A, which includes licensed health care workers such as paramedics and EMTs, to 1B, which includes all public safety workers, Augusta Fire Battalion Chief Steve Leach, who is overseeing Augusta’s vaccine operation, said that the city plans to give shots via a drive-thru in the former Sears automotive garage at the Turnpike Mall. People will not have to get out of their vehicles to get the shot.

People who received the shot recently had to wait 15 minutes to make sure they didn’t have an adverse reaction.

The Moderna vaccine may be stored in standard freezers, an advantage compared to the Pfizer vaccine that some Maine hospitals, including MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, have received. 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.

The fire department received a small box with 10 vials shipped with frozen gel packs inside a large, heavy, and heavily insulated shipping box. There’s usually 10 doses per vial, but Leach said that they were able to vaccinate 31 people on the first day because he was able to get an extra dose from one vial.

Augusta Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Leach draws a dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe Thursday at the Hartford Fire Station in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

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