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Long Beach first responders get their shots

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Hours before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, Scott Kemins, Long Beach’s fire commissioner, drove to Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, walked into a lobby area, rolled up his sleeve and was given the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

Soon after, Kemins’s arm was sore, he developed what he described as flu-like symptoms and he went to bed. “I missed New Year’s Eve,” he said.

But he is happy that he now has at least 95 percent protection against the coronavirus. In the days that followed, 45 of Long Beach’s emergency-services personnel were also vaccinated at MSSN. Kemins and the others will get their second inoculation soon. Some will get the Moderna vaccine, and others the Pfizer-BioNTech version.

Kemins said that some of his colleagues have had mild Covid symptoms, but all have recovered. Ambulance drivers and firefighters who are trained in emergency services were among those who were vaccinated.

These first responders have come in contact with many people in Long Beach who had full-blown cases of the virus. According to the most recent Nassau County weekly survey, 238 people tested positive in Long Beach. This week, Mount Sinai South Nassau had 99 Covid-19 patients. Last spring it had as many as 400.

“The process [at MSSN] was flawless,” Kemins said. He reported for his shot at 8 a.m. on Dec. 31, and was on his way back to Long Beach by 8:30.

David Woolfe, who has been an emergency-services worker in Long Beach for about a decade, also got the Moderna vaccine on New Year’s Eve at MSSN. He felt nothing more than some soreness in his arm for a few hours and is due for a second dose in two weeks.

Woolfe said he did not feel significantly protected after just one shot, but predicted he would after the second one. “This is like priming the pump,” he said.

Wolfe, a volunteer, explained that he changed his clothes each time he had to interact with someone with Covid symptoms and that he would continue to take such precautions even after his second shot.

Joe Calderone, a spokesman for the hospital, said that hundreds of emergency-services personnel across Nassau County had been vaccinated there and that the hospital had set up a special “pod area” in the lobby where vaccines are administered.

Those now eligible for the vaccines, according to the state Department of Health, including hospital emergency room workers and ICU staff, residents and staff of nursing homes, EMS workers, medical examiners and certain funeral home workers, dentists, others in the health care industry and child-care providers. On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all New Yorkers over 65 are eligible as well, in line with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A complete list can be found on the state DOH website, dohweb@health.ny.gov. Vaccinations are given by appointment only.