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Assemblywoman Buttenschon Calls on the State to Include EMS Personnel in Phase 1A of Vaccine Distribution

December 14, 2020 – Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D,I-Utica/Rome) and a number of her colleagues in the New York State Assembly have sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and NYs Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker expressing their concern that New York State is no longer including emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in Phase 1A of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and urging them to correct their decision.

 

The recently announced exclusion of EMS personnel goes against recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)[1] and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines[2] both of which recommended first responders, including emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccines during Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan.

The Legislators note that EMS providers, particularly those serving rural communities, already face major financial and operational burdens which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. This is due to a variety of factors, including low Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates, the way that insurance reimbursements are handled by health insurance companies, the paramedic shortage gripping the nation, and the lack of an essential public safety service designation for many EMS providers.

 

“During a medical emergency, our first instinct is to call 911 and seek assistance from our EMS providers. EMTs and paramedics put themselves at risk every day to help vulnerable New Yorkers – it is unacceptable that they would not be among those first prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine. EMS will only return to normal when a vaccine is widely available for all first responders, their families and the people they serve. I urge Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker to correct this exclusion before the negative impacts become permanent,” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon said.

 

“It is unconscionable that the Governor would go against the CDC and the NAS recommendations. EMS workers are, by their very definition, primary caregivers and have first contact with many active COVID patients,” Paul Taylor, Paramedic and CEO of AmCare Ambulance Service, Inc. stated. “AmCare alone serves six nursing homes, multiple NYS congregate residences and two prison populations. We protect a population of 60,000 over 360 square miles and have approximately 10,000 calls for help each year. Our providers need and deserve protection by being the first to receive a vaccine. If the EMS system is not protected, the ripple effect on the entire healthcare system will be catastrophic!”

 

“The Utica Fire Department serves a diverse population that has seen a remarkable increase in COVID-19 positive cases,” Utica City Fire Chief Scott E. Ingersoll said. “Firefighters respond daily to emergency calls that are unstructured and place them in close proximity to patients that are or may potentially be COVID-19 positive. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best ways to protect personnel so they can continue to provide care throughout this pandemic.”

 

[1] Dooling K, McClung N, Chamberland M, et al. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ Interim Recommendation for Allocating Initial Supplies of COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1857-1859. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6949e1.

2 https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/a-framework-for-equitable-allocation-of-vaccine-for-the-novel-coronavirus

 

 

The text of the letter is pasted below:

 

December 11, 2020

 

 

Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor, State of New York

Executive Chamber, State Capitol

Albany, NY 12248

Howard A. Zucker, MD, JD, LLM

Commissioner, NYS Department of Health

Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12237

 

Dear Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker:

 

Thank you for the efforts that you have undertaken to ensure a swift and efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We are writing to express our extreme concern that New York State is no longer including emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution.

 

This exclusion of EMS personnel goes against recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines. Each of these recommendations prioritizes first responders, including EMS personnel. Both agencies concur that all persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct and indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials should be the first to receive the vaccine.

 

An untold number of EMTs and paramedics have been exposed to or suffered from COVID-19. EMS personnel are the first to respond to a wide variety of medical situations at homes, workplaces, nursing homes and hospitals. They are in very close contact with potentially infectious patients due to tight quarters within ambulances and transportation times to hospitals. This makes it likely that EMS providers are spending enough time in contact with an infectious person to trigger a quarantine recommendation (per CDC guidelines which consider close contact as being within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more).

 

In addition to the risk of exposure, EMS providers face major financial pressures as call volumes have decreased in many jurisdictions due to patients’ reluctance to seek out medical care because of COVID-related fears. This has exacerbated the financial burdens our EMS providers faced before the pandemic and the increased operations costs caused by the pandemic.

 

For small EMS providers in our rural communities, financial issues would be exacerbated further should a significant number of their EMTs and paramedics face quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or illness. This would increase response times in time-sensitive situations where a quick response could be the difference between life and death.

 

EMS providers must be included in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution or else our already overburdened system will face collapse. EMS, along with the rest of population, can only return to normal when a vaccine is widely available for all first responders, as well as their families and the civilians they serve.

 

Thank you for your consideration of this crucial request.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Marianne Buttenschon

Assemblymember, 119th District

 

Donna A. Lupardo

Assemblymember, 123rd District

 

Didi Barrett

Assemblymember, 106th District

 

Pamela J. Hunter

Assemblymember, 128th District

 

Patricia Fahy

Assemblymember, 109th District

 

Karen M. McMahon

Assemblymember, 146th District

 

Sarah Clark

Assemblymember, 136th District

 

John T. McDonald

Assemblymember, 108th District

 

Inez E. Dickens

Assemblymember, 70th District

 

Jonathon G. Jacobson

Assemblymember, 104th District

 

Carrie Woerner

Assemblymember, 113th District

 

Monica P. Wallace

Assemblymember, 143rd District

 

Catherine Nolan

Assemblymember, 37th District

 

 

Amy R. Paulin

Assemblymember, 88th District

 

Kenneth P. Zebrowski

Assemblymember, 96th District

 

Aileen M. Gunther

Assemblymember, 100th District

 

Patrick Burke

Assemblymember, 142nd District

 

Steve Stern

Assemblymember, 10th District

 

Judy Griffin

Assemblymember, 21st District

 

 

 

 

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