Answering the call: Neighboring fire districts team up to vaccinate public

May 2021 Posted in Community, News, People, Your Health

By Melissa Wagoner

Victor Hoffer vaccinating Mayor Don Fleck with the 2000th vaccination since the MAFD began vaccinating -- courtesy of Victor Hoffer

Victor Hoffer vaccinating Mayor Don Fleck with the 2000th vaccination since the MAFD began vaccinating — courtesy of Victor Hoffer

What started as the Mt. Angel Fire District (MAFD) providing COVID-19 vaccinations to their own paramedics and firefighters this February, quickly grew as they reached out to other districts – Silverton, Woodburn, Lyons and Mill City among them – to provide vaccines.

“We ended up doing around 400 first responders,” Fire Chief Jim Trierweiler said. “Fortunately for us, we’re already trained in that. It was simply reading up and learning the indications and contraindications. Being EMTs and paramedics we already give injections. In the early days it was mobile, we went to someone’s drill night.”

Then, with first responders covered, the MAFD quickly turned its sights toward vaccinating the greater population, beginning with the Mount Angel Towers senior independent and assisted living community.

“The Towers was one of the only places we went externally,” Paramedic Elizabeth Fullmer recalled. “They were great. The staff up there helped us screen paperwork and they were very organized. The first round was mid-February… We had quite a rush because we didn’t really have anybody scheduled for times.”

“We did 54 in 45 minutes,” fellow Paramedic Victor Hoffer said.

These experiences under their belt, the MAFD began to hold their own vaccination clinics, initially advertising on Facebook and through word of mouth.

“We wanted to keep it as close to our county as we could,” Trierweiler confirmed. “Most of the people in there are from our area.”

But the paperwork was tricky.

“It started taking on a life of its own,” Trierweiler said. “We started out with a list of people who needed vaccines but that became difficult when you had to track them down in 28 days. So, we started using SignUp Genius.”

They also began passing on the knowledge they had gained to the Silverton Fire District (SFD), which began holding its own satellite clinics on March 23.

“MAFD has a great clinic template that they use…” Silverton’s Assistant Fire Chief Ed Grambusch said. “MAFD Fire Chief Jim Trierweiler [and] MAFD Paramedic Vic Hoffer have been essential in assisting us with the clinics… We could not have gotten to this point without the help of MAFD.”

The goal of both fire districts with the creation of
these clinics is to vaccinate as many people as possible without the necessity of travel or the need to navigate confusing systems. 

“It is important that our community has a local and familiar option when selecting and receiving their vaccine,” SFD Administrative Assistant Candace Cantu said.

To that end, both districts are determined to provide vaccinations for as long as they are necessary, now focusing on farmworkers in Mount Angel and looking at the possible addition of weekend clinics at the Festhalle in Mount Angel once vaccine availability improves.

“This has been one of the most rewarding things in my EMS career,” Fullmer said. “I’m very proud of what we’re doing.”

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