North East Mobile Health Rockport Division Operations Manager Jonathan Powers announced that as of Dec. 29, many staff members in the Rockport division have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination and are among the very first EMS providers to be vaccinated in Knox County.

“Thanks to a great working relationship with Windward Gardens and their efforts to protect their staff and residents, we were invited to participate in their vaccination clinic,” he said.

NEMHS transports many residents to their facility for rehabilitation or long-term care, and responds to medical emergencies there.

“It was essential for us to participate and vaccinate to stop the virus’s spread and reduce a vector of possible infection into their facility and our communities,” he explained.

“We will have opportunities to get the remainder of our local staff vaccinated through a county-wide plan to get EMS vaccinated across Knox County.”

He said the majority of the staff has opted to vaccinate.

“We will not be making the vaccination mandatory because we feel that vaccinating is a very personal decision,” he said. “Still, we encourage all our staff to vaccinate and support everyone regardless of their decision. Of those few who are opting not to vaccinate at this time, it is generally due to other preexisting health concerns.”

He added that the staff will not immediately reduce other protective measures, including responding in full protective equipment, universal masking for patients and staff, and regular decontaminations of the building, vehicles and equipment.

Emergency Medical Services is in the Maine CDC 1A category, meaning licensed EMS providers are grouped with other healthcare workers in priority to receive the vaccine.

Since the global pandemic was first declared March 11, the Rockport division has transported or treated just more than 400 patients under investigation for COVID-19 due to symptoms or having a confirmed positive test. Company-wide, NEMHS staff have seen a sharp increase to over 60% of its patient contacts being under investigation for COVID-19 or a confirmed positive.

More information on Maine’s vaccination efforts can be found at maine.gov/covid19/vaccines.