2,066 More First Doses of Pfizer Vaccine Administered March 27-28
AMESBURY — Firefighters, chiefs, police officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and one extremely loveable therapy dog comprise the badge-wearing segment of friendly faces patients run into at the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic.
When communities were presented with the immense challenge of vaccinating everyone against COVID-19, the municipal fire chiefs quickly emerged as some of the organizers-in-chief. Police and fire departments are trained to use a remarkably effective organizational tool called the Incident Command System, or ICS. When the size, scope and frequency of COVID-19 vaccine clinics became apparent, it was clear that clinic organizers would need something like ICS to keep everyone on the same page.
As a result, Amesbury Fire Chief Ken Berkenbush was selected as the “Incident Commander” for the vaccine initiative, not to be the “boss” but to be a lead organizer for the clinic.
“In many ways, running vaccine clinics is not too different than fighting fires,” Chief Berkenbush said. “We have a location, with a multitude of professionals coming here to perform different tasks. We have people who need our services delivered in a professional and timely manner. We have medical procedures occurring. It all has to be done in an organized manner, and ICS provides that framework. As fire chiefs, we use ICS every day at nearly every incident, and it is a good way to keep everyone on the same page and moving toward our goal of vaccinating our communities.”
With pharmacy staff, medical practitioners, nurse managers, registration desks and observation rooms all running at once, as well as some 200 volunteers reporting for duty each day, ICS provides numerous benefits.
“There are no egos with ICS, and that’s important when you have chiefs, mayors, health directors, town managers, department heads, pharmacists and volunteers all working together. In the fire service, we are accustomed to this. During a serious fire, you may have four or five different fire chiefs show up from various communities, but they all report to one incident commander to ensure the job gets done safety and effectively,” said West Newbury Fire Chief Michael Dwyer. “A uniform and a badge does not mean you’re in charge. At our clinics, a firefighter may assist a nurse and a fire chief may help a scheduling volunteer. It’s all about working together.”
The ICS system was designed by the federal government. It can be used for emergencies or planned events. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, benefits of ICS include:
- Clarifying chain of command and supervision responsibilities to improve accountability — for volunteers and professional staff alike
- Organizing communications with the public and with staff
- Providing an orderly, systematic planning process.
- Fostering cooperation among departments and agencies.
Since the beginning of the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics, all nine fire chiefs in the collaborative have volunteered their time, and police chiefs and officers from throughout the region have been on hand in various capacities.
Of all the police and fire personnel on hand, the biggest hit has absolutely been Whittier, the Amesbury Police Department’s 1-year-old therapy dog. Whittier and his partner, Amesbury Police Officer Scott Peters have been present each week to provide comfort to patients and volunteers alike.
This past weekend, March 27-28, the Collaborative administered 2,066 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with zero wasted doses and an ongoing efficiency rate over 100% thanks to the skillful work of the pharmacy and medical staff.
The Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative comprises Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury. Many of the volunteers were from the area, and included municipal employees, public school staff and local residents.
JGPR is providing communications services to this initiative on a pro bono basis.