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Monday, September 27, 2021

Marion County Fire Rescue partnering with health department on COVID-19 vaccines

Mark Lander

Marion County is gearing up to distribute COVID-19 vaccines through an all-out team effort.

That’s according to Mark Lander, administrator of the Department of Health in Marion County, and Fire Chief James Banta of Marion County Fire Rescue. They both spoke in front of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning and made assurances that they are more than ready to start vaccinating area residents against the deadly virus.

“We are very encouraged by this. I’m not going to say this is the light at the end of the tunnel but this is the light that they can see,” Lander said. “The number one priority is to get the shot to individuals.”

Lander told commissioners that a vaccine manufactured by Pfizer received emergency use approval on Dec. 11 and another made by Moderna is expected to receive that same approval sometime this week. Other vaccines made by AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson also are expected to be available soon.

Lander said all the vaccines except the one being manufactured by Johnson & Johnson will require two separate shots, which means residents who receive them will have to return a second time to get the full dose.

“Everyone is anxiously awaiting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it is a one-dose vaccine,” Lander said. “One and done.”

Lander said the Pfizer vaccine, which is for those 16 and older, will be administered 21 days apart and is 95 percent effective after the second dose is given. One of the challenges with that vaccine, he added, is that it has to be kept at -70 degrees Celsius.

Likewise, Lander said, the Moderna vaccine can be given to those 16 and older and will be administered in two doses 28 days apart, with a 95-percent effective rate. It has to be stored at -20 degrees Celsius, which makes it a little bit easier to deal with, Lander added.

Fire Chief James Banta

Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved a measure that will allow personnel from Marion County Fire Rescue to be trained to give the vaccinations. Fire Chief James Banta said his department has 402 paramedics on staff and every one of them, including him, will be able to administer the vaccines.

“Our mission has always been to protect lives and property,” he said. “That mission stays the same. The challenges change and this is an example of that.”

Banta said his department is 100 percent committed to being a part of the solution to get the COVID-19 virus under control. Commission Chairman Jeff Gold, who retired from both Marion County Fire Rescue and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, said he would be happy to be the 403rd paramedic available to administer vaccines.

“We’re all ready for this to end,” Gold said of the pandemic. “I think everybody in the world is ready for this to end. We are finally hoping to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, this is it.”