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Local first responders share experiences with COVID-19 vaccine

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Newton Fire/EMS Chief Steve Roberson receives the first of two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna. First responders received shots at the Harvey County Health Department as part of a phased rollout of the vaccine. Few area recipients reported side effects. [COURTESY IMAGE]

Doug Trumble is a busy man who works a full-time job in addition to founding his own company while serving on the Newton Fire/EMS reserves. 

"Time management is pretty key for me," Trumble said. 

That's why when he received an email from Newton Fire/EMS chief Steve Roberson asking if he wanted to get an optional COVID-19 vaccine shot, he signed up. 

"I immediately signed up for it. I am too busy to be sick for two weeks," Trumble said. 

The vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, was the second vaccine approved for use by the FDA. It shipped on Dec. 20, and on Dec. 22 Trumble was in the Harvey County Health Department rolling up his sleeve. 

He qualified for the vaccine because he is a first responder. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the vaccines may have some side effects, which it says are normal signs that the recipient's body is building protection. Side effects may feel like flu and may even affect the ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Common side effects on the arm where  patients get the shot include pain and swelling. Common side effects throughout the rest of the body can include fever, tiredness, chills and headache.

Trumble told The Kansan he experienced some tenderness near where he got the shot and that was the extent of his side effects. Anderson Lowe, director of Halstead EMS, experienced a few of the expected side effects over the course of a couple of days. 

Lowe reported a slight headache, muscle soreness, a sore arm and a fever of 101.8 degrees. Tylenol broke his fever, and after a night of sleep he was feeling "normal."

"i had one crappy day, which I was expecting," Lowe said. "I am still a believer that (people) need to be lining up when it becomes available."

The vaccines operate in a two-dose series separated by 28 days — meaning the medical staff and first responders who received intinal doses last week will get a second shot in January. 

"I know I will have some side effects after the second shot," Lowe said. "That's what I learned during a trial. I would rather have two days of not feeling well, rather than two weeks of horrible sickness or worse." 

According to USA Today, about 5.9 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were rolled out to 3,500 locations across the country last week. That is in addition to 2 million doses of a Pfizer vaccine being distributed at the same time. 

About 200 of those initial doses were received by the Harvey County Health Department, which vaccinated first responders.

"They were very thorough," Trumble said. "They were very efficient and professional. They gave us a flyer with the possible side effects on it."

And they asked recipients to remain at the health department for several minutes following the shot to monitor for possible allergic reactions. 

Earlier this month the governor released a five-phase distribution plan for the vaccine as more doses become available. 

"The big thing here is the nursing homes," Trumble said.  

"It is quite a pri if you get exposed on an ambulance call. You go back to the fire station, strip, take a shower and get decontaminated," Trumble said. "They take it very seriously. I am actually really proud of them." 

According to the CDC, adverse events that occur in a recipient after COVID-19 vaccination are required to be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. The FDA requires vaccination providers report vaccination administration errors, serious adverse events, cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death after administration of COVID-19 vaccine.