North Yarmouth Fire Capt. Bruce Quint administers a COVID-19 vaccine to North Yarmouth Firefighter/EMT Bryce Newman. Police, 911 operators, and firefighter/EMT personnel are receiving vaccinations at various stations statewide. Emily Bader / For The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough Fire Department has finished its first round of COVID-19 vaccinations for first responders in Cumberland County, covering 11 different local communities.

Scarborough is one of three agencies — the other two are Portland and Gorham — that are tasked by the State Department of Public Safety/Maine EMS with vaccinating first responders countywide. While officials said they were pleased with the progress made so far, no one on the local, county or state level could give an exact count of how many police officers, 911 dispatchers and fire/EMS personnel have received the vaccine in local communities.

Scarborough Deputy Fire Chief Richard Kindelan is coordinating vaccination efforts locally. In addition to local first responders, he said, Scarborough also has given doses to personnel in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Pownal, New Gloucester, Gray, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island and Westbrook. Kindelan said this week that his department has given first and second doses of the vaccine to 705 first responders since the department began its work on Jan. 1, but he did not have a breakdown of that figure by community.

Kindelan said first responders must volunteer to be vaccinated, and contact the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency in Windham to set up an appointment with one of the three departments administering the vaccine. Emily Kasner, the agency’s deputy director, referred requests for a breakdown to the state level.

State EMS Director Sam Hurley provided a list of communities and agencies statewide that have administered vaccines, including Scarborough, Gorham and Topsham. According to the numbers, which date back to the first statewide first responder vaccination efforts on Dec. 23, 2020, Scarborough Fire personnel have administered 702 doses, while Gorham Fire administered 878 and Topsham Fire/EMS administered 168. Hurley could not say, however, how many of those doses were first or second, and could not say how many individuals had been vaccinated or where the recipients were from.

When asked for a further breakdown Hurley, via email, wrote: “We don’t have a great way of determining how many people from each individual agency received the vaccination as it was done based on a county-wide effort.”

There is no indication of any local, county, state or federal mandate for first responders to get vaccinated. When asked, Kindelan, the Scarborough chief, said, “We are not making any requirements of our people,” but could not confirm whether any other authority mandates vaccination. Inquiries to the state and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were referred to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which initially cleared the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines under the emergency authorized use classification. A spokesman for the FDA would only confirm via email that the FDA does not mandate that anyone receive the vaccine.

Locally, Kindelan said his department takes every precaution to protect patients, especially with personnel who have not been vaccinated. Anyone who exhibits any symptoms of any kind, regardless of whether they have been tested, he said, are sent home. Those who do go out on medical calls, he said, have a high amount of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The likelihood that we’ll transfer to a patient, while never zero, is very, very low,” he said.

Maine CDC did not respond to an inquiry regarding the risk of exposure to patients before The Forecaster’s deadline.

Locally, Kindelan said he was happy with the department’s performance so far. His department expects to vaccinate a total of 1,200-1,500 people.

“We’re still on track to do that before we’re done,” he said, noting that in addition to the more than 700 first responders the department has already vaccinated, he said there are already 300 more who have signed up.

Kindelan said there is no official deadline for finishing the vaccines, but that his department will keep working “until the mission’s done.”

The only thing that would improve efforts, Kindelan said, was a larger supply of the vaccine.

“We probably could’ve been done in early February if we had the doses,” he said.

Kasner, of the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, said she believed a shortage of doses was by far the biggest obstacle the agency has seen to date.

“That’s been a challenge for the state of Maine,” Kasner said. “That’s been a challenge nationally.”

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