Chancy Ferguson giving Rich Saalsaa COVID-19 vaccine
Deputy Chief Chancy Ferguson prepares to vaccinate Capt. Rich Saalsaa — both of Philomath Fire & Rescue — on Monday at Corvallis Fire Station 1. (Photo courtesy of Rich Saalsaa)

First responders from around Benton County started receiving COVID-19 vaccinations this week, including those from Philomath and the surrounding area.

Will Bauscher, Corvallis Fire Department division chief who is managing the operation, said front-line personnel are receiving the Moderna vaccination.

“If the stars align, I hope to have the vast majority of them done by Saturday,” Bauscher said. “Likely, it’ll be a little bit into next week, so it’ll probably take anywhere from six to seven days.”

Agencies with front-line personnel receiving vaccinations include:

• Philomath, Blodgett-Summit, Hoskins-Kings Valley, Corvallis, Monroe, Adair Village and Alsea fire departments.

• Philomath and Corvallis police, Oregon State University Police and Public Safety, and Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

• Corvallis Regional Communications Center.

“Right now, I have 292 personnel that have requested the vaccine that we initially did our allocation on,” Bauscher said. “I probably have another, I would say, 10 or so that are on a waiting list based on allocation, so we’re right around 300, 310.”

Bauscher said there have been a number of COVID-19 cases among public safety personnel from around the county. The arrival of the vaccine doesn’t mean it won’t be contracted by other first responders in the future, but it will lessen the effects.

“The vaccine itself will help reduce moderate to severe illness,” Bauscher said. “What it means for our front-line responders is, if they were to contract COVID, that the likelihood of them suffering moderate and severe illness is lessened substantially, which gives us some reliability for sustaining our work forces to be able to continue to respond.

“It’s important for people to understand, the vaccine itself doesn’t necessarily prevent you from getting the illness,” he added. “It’s like a flu shot in many ways, it will reduce morbidity and mortality as a result of the virus.”

Philomath personnel began getting shots on Monday with those to continue throughout the week. Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Chancy Ferguson is one of seven emergency medical service providers who were trained to give the Moderna vaccine.

“The individuals who can administer shots have to be a licensed EMS provider at the intermediate or paramedic level,” Bauscher said. “We have a cadre of six vaccinators — if you include me into the mix, then there’s seven of us — that have gone through some additional training specific to the Moderna vaccine to administer it.”

Fire & Rescue’s Rich Saalsaa is assisting with the operation with duties related to registration and management of the various participating fire agencies.

Those receiving the shot this week will come back approximately 28 days later for the second Moderna injection, Bauscher said.