By TIM ROWDEN
North St. Louis County – Affton, Metro North, North County and Pattonville fire protection districts teamed up with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health on March 25 to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to North St. Louis County residents at the Metro North firehouse at 1815 Chambers Rd.
Vaccines were offered for residents in the 63135, 63136 and 63137 zip codes, covering all or parts of Bellefontaine Neighbors, Calverton Park, Dellwood, Ferguson, Glasgow Village, Jennings, Normandy, Riverview and St. Louis.
In the Pattonville fire protection district, fire fighters provided vaccines in Bridgeton and Maryland Heights.
The mutual aid effort drew a steady stream of local residents eager to get vaccinated and begin putting the pandemic behind them.
“Our fire fighters saw a need and stepped up to volunteer their own time to support our communities, “ said Mark Woolbright, Fire Fighters 2nd District vice president. “We’re still manning the fire houses, so residents can be assured of emergency service if it’s needed across the county.”
Keith Goldstein, chief of North County Fire and Rescue (formerly Riverview Fire Protection District), said it has been a challenge, getting enough vaccine and testing sites in the area.
“We’ve had a very hard time getting vaccine,” he said. “When the pandemic was beginning, we had trouble getting testing sites up in the area.”
Some people have been hesitant to get the vaccine, said Dave Volz, chief of the Metro North Fire Protection District. Others have just been unable to get an appointment.
“We’re getting a lot of our residents vaccinated that haven’t been able to,” Volz said. “A lot of them were on the list but they haven’t been chosen yet. We’re doing this in these zip codes up here and encouraging residents if they feel like they want it to get a shot to come in.”
‘I NEED TO SEE MY DAD’
Phillis Hayden, 61, of Bellefontaine Neighbors, was among those who received her first dose of the two-part Pfizer vaccine. She admitted to some hesitancy because of her health issues, but said she wanted to get vaccinated so she could visit her father.
“I was concerned because I have asthma and severe allergies,” she said. “But I had to make the decision so I could see my dad. He’s 89 and has dementia and is living on the East Coast. We’ve visited on Zoom, but it confuses him.
“I want to go see him,” she said. “I need to go see him. And I have to have this to get into his facility.”
Speaking with local mayors and community leaders, Volz said the hope is that as more people get vaccinated, their relatives, friends and neighbors will feel more comfortable getting vaccinated themselves.
“This is a really good partnership between the community, the mayors, the fire districts, Fire Fighters Local 2665 and Teamsters Local 610 just doing what we need to do to get people vaccinated and keep them healthy.”
NO ENCOURAGEMENT NEEDED
Casey Shanahan didn’t need any encouragement.
Shannon, 27, is a new mother, who works for an insurance agency. She has a four-month-old daughter named Georgia, who was born during the pandemic, and says they’ve been inside for months.
“I’ve been inside for a long time, so I’m glad to finally get the vaccine rolling,” she said.
Local union fire fighters have been instrumental in getting the vaccines out to their communities.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO HELP
The Affton Fire Protection District, where fire fighters are represented by Teamsters Local 610, had already administered more than 7,000 doses, said Affton Fire Chief Nick Fahs.
“We’ve been fortunate. We vaccinate every day. This area though has a low vaccination rate and a high infection rate.”
Last week, when the Red Cross needed to use the meeting space in the Affton Fire House for a blood drive, fire fighters took their vaccine clinic on the road to help their brothers and sisters in North County.
Emily Varner, public health coordinator for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health said the department has been coordinating with the North County, Metro North Affton, Eureka, Richmond Heights and Pattonville fire districts to get the vaccine out to people in their communities who need it. Last week’s clinic was a big step in that direction.