Mercer Island Fire Department emergency medical technicians Tommy Edwards (left) and Eric Gaines arrive with COVID-19 vaccine for residents at Twilight Adult Family Homes on March 8. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island Fire Department

Mercer Island Fire Department emergency medical technicians Tommy Edwards (left) and Eric Gaines arrive with COVID-19 vaccine for residents at Twilight Adult Family Homes on March 8. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island Fire Department

Mercer Island EMTs begin administering COVID-19 vaccine

Recipients are residents of adult family homes and assisted-living facilities.

With 25 years as a member of the Mercer Island Fire Department (MIFD) under his belt, Lt. Trever Kissel couldn’t be more pleased with the new training that’s now part of his résumé.

Kissel was one of three local emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who began administering COVID-19 vaccine to five residents of the Island’s Twilight Adult Family Homes on March 8.

“It’s exciting for me because I get to do something completely new and push us forward into recovery, which is why we do this job,” said Kissel, adding that the residents were thrilled when the EMTs arrived with the vaccine.

When the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) approved for EMTs to administer the vaccine in October, Kissel immediately wanted training to be part of a team after watching the Bellevue Fire Department (BFD) establish its program. Kissel said the MIFD has a mutual aid agreement and solid working relationship with the Bellevue crew, which provided training and supplies to the Island EMTs.

Kissel feels honored to have another hat to wear in the fire-department realm.

“It’s unique because I don’t think we get an opportunity to help people beforehand very often. We go out and do fire inspections, we try to keep people safe ahead of time, but normally we’re emergency responders that react to a bad situation that’s already occurred. I like the idea that we’re actually helping prevent (death and sickness),” he said.

Emergency medical technician Tommy Edwards administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a Twilight Adult Family Homes resident on March 8. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island Fire Department

Emergency medical technician Tommy Edwards administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a Twilight Adult Family Homes resident on March 8. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island Fire Department

Eligible recipients are those from adult family homes and assisted-living facilities who are mobility-challenged or have experienced other difficulties in securing off-site appointments because the homes have a few residents and staff members, according to the city.

MIFD Deputy Fire Chief Mike Mandella said they receive their assignments from the BFD, and next up was a visit to Grace Place.

“We hope to continue doing this as long as there is available vaccine supply and eligible people in need in the covered categories,” read a city press release.

It took a while for everything to fall into place for the Island department, said Mandella, noting that the DOH granted permission for EMTs to receive extensive training to administer vaccine doses as the pandemic continued. Paramedics from other agencies were previously the only ones who could give vaccine shots.

Once they received the go-ahead, the local EMTs took three courses, including a shadow day with an existing vaccination team. About 12 to 13 members of the MIFD volunteered to join a team and about half of them had received their full training at post time.

Mandella said a Bellevue medic will accompany the Island three-person teams on the first several visits to the homes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

It’s a very involved process to administer the vaccine said Mandella, noting that one member draws the product from the vial and controls the injections; another member meticulously manages the robust paperwork; and the final member monitors the 15-minute wait after the shot, as well as monitors the temperature of the cooler and times how long a vial has been out of the cooler.

Perfection is crucial throughout the entire process, Mandella said.

The deputy fire chief said they’re happy to contribute to something that’s benefiting residents. Everyone shows an appreciation for each other during the visits, so it’s a win-win situation, Mandella added.

“For as painstaking as it was to put this together, it is absolutely worth every minute of the work,” he said.

All scheduling of these mobile vaccinations is handled by Public Health – Seattle & King County. For more information, visit https://letstalk.mercergov.org/vaccine.


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