A letter was sent on Thursday by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) to the National Governors Association calling on governors to give firefighters and paramedics priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine when it's distributed.
The letter, signed by IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger, asserts that the level of risk to responders has never been greater than it is now, with over 30,000 professional firefighters having known exposure to COVID-19 in the course of duty.
President Schaitberger's letter goes on to say that nearly 150 professional firefighters have been hospitalized upon contracting the virus, and at least 19 have died.
"The virus not only places the lives and health of responders at risk, it also poses a risk to the larger community as well as to firefighters responding to emergencies in homes, businesses and elsewhere before they may be aware of an infection," Schaitberger says.
In Indiana's current COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, firefighters currently fall into Phase 2 of the vaccine's distribution, as "Individuals whose in-person work is essential, required, and places them in settings where social distancing is not possible and transmission risk is high.
In Illinois' plan, firefighters fall into Phase 1a but would still receive the vaccine only after health care workers.
As for Kentucky's plan, firefighters would receive the vaccine in Phase 1a as well but would come after health care workers, Long Term Care and Assisted Living Facilities workers, and EMS personnel.