Trying to take some of the pressure off county health officials flooded with people looking for swine flu vaccinations, Riggs Ambulance has trained 11 paramedics to give swine flu shots to first responders.
Don Vonarx, general manager for Riggs, said in California it's not typically within the scope of paramedics to give vaccinations.
"The state medical director has allowed for this to happen," Vonarx said. The Merced County Emergency Medical Service authority also gave its stamp of approval to the idea. The paramedics are ready to start wielding a syringe full of the vaccine.
It wasn’t the actual injecting of the vaccine that the paramedics had to be trained for, Vonarx said. Paramedics give injections as part of their regular duties.
"The paramedics learned about the vaccine itself, and its side effects," Vonarx said.
John Volanti, director of Merced County Public Health, said swine flu vaccinations are a high priority for the county. The professionals at Riggs are appreciated for their assistance in vaccinating emergency responders, he added.
The clinics for first responders are mobile clinics. The county health department provided the vaccines for the clinics.
Vonarx said his company has enough vaccines to give about 1,000 first responders their shots.
"We've given about 110 so far, and we’re about a third of the way through different areas of the community," he said.
It’s important for first responders to have their vaccinations because they are often the first to treat swine flu patients. Because the flu is so contagious, Vonarx said first responders are at high risk of contracting it.
First responders in the county aren’t required to get the swine flu vaccine, Vonarx said — it’s a personal choice for everyone.
“We have to remember, this is the flu. It isn’t rabies or anything like that,” he said. “All we can do is provide the information and let people make their decision.”
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org