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North Texas firefighters share excitement and concern about being first to get COVID-19 vaccine this week

The Cleburne Fire Department and Flower Mound Fire Department are both getting 500 Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shots this week.

Many fire departments across Texas will be receiving their vaccine distribution this week, including a handful in North Texas.

Fire Departments in Cleburne, Flower Mound, Arlington, McKinney and Farmers Branch will all get vaccine shots at some point this week.

The Cleburne Fire Department is getting 500 Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shots Thursday. Fire Chief Scott Lail said a key reason his firefighters are a part of "Tier 1" distribution is they also serve Cleburne as paramedics.

"To be a Cleburne firefighter, you're required to go to and retain your paramedic certification," Lail said.

Cheif Lail contracted COVID-19 about a month ago, having a fever for a short period of time and body aches for a day or two. He still can't taste or smell at times.

While Lail said many are hopeful these vaccines will help bring back "some semblance of normal,"  being first to get the shots is bringing with it both excitement and concern.

"You have some people who are just chomping at the bit to get the vaccine," Lail said. "You have some people who are adamantly against being the first person in line."

Lail said while getting the shot is voluntary for everyone in the department, he said his focus right now is to give his firefighters detailed information about the vaccine so everyone can make an educated decision.

"Then the members of the department will get to make the decision whether they want it or not," said Lail. 

Lail said since the vaccine, once punctured, can only be out of the refrigerated for six hours, his department will be providing vaccinations during a 5-hour window each day.

This distribution comes during a time when cases are on the rise in Cleburne and Johnson County. More than 50% of the county's total reported cases since the pandemic started have happened in the past six weeks.

Credit: Jay Wallis

The Flower Mound Fire Department is also getting 500 vaccine shots this week. Most of the department's firefighters are cross-trained as paramedics with some cross-trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). 

The department is planning to offer some of its shots to other Denton County fire departments also providing EMS care.

"A vaccine is the best way right now that we can see to help us all move beyond the pandemic," Flower Mound Fire Department Emergency Management Officer Brandon Barth said.

Barth said not only is the Flower Mound Fire Department seeing more people in the department get COVID-19 right now, but it is also treating and transporting more patients who have contracted the virus than ever before.

"We are definitely looking forward to the opportunity for our personnel being protected from COVID as best as a vaccine can do," said Barth.

Lail said he's thankful for the extra layer of safety these shots will bring his firefighters not only at work but in their everyday lives as well.

"People haven't been able to see their moms and dads and grandmothers and grandfathers for months," Lail said. "A bigger part of that is it helps us as people to reconnect with that vulnerable part of our family."