EMTs to start giving COVID-19 vaccine, per governor

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — To help with the expected wave of COVID-19 booster shots, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will start administering the vaccine.

"This was not an Earth-shattering announcement to us today," said Deputy Chief of Clinical Care Eric Thomas from CHS Mobile Integrated Healthcare.

The reason it wasn’t Earth-shattering is that paramedics at CHS have been giving the vaccine to people at home for months, but Wednesday’s announcement from the governor will expand the number of people at their agency and across the state who are able to give the shot. Starting back in May, CHS and four other Monroe County ambulance agencies began vaccinating people against COVID.

Watch the full announcement from Governor Hochul in the video in the player below (mobile users, click here):

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"One of the advantages of this new announcement is that this allows EMT-level practitioners to now provide vaccination. before, as we were practicing here it was only paramedic-level practitioners,” Thomas said.

Gov. Hochul says training for EMTs to administer the COVID vaccine is simple, it’s done online, and it will only take a few hours.

In our area, we have several thousand more EMTs than we do paramedics.

"Regionally there’s thousands of EMTs, and only a couple hundred paramedics,” Thomas said. “Then if you look at the state on a bigger scale there’s about 50,000 EMTs and fewer paramedics."

Gov. Hochul alluded to those 50,000 people at her briefing today, saying "The EMTs… we’ll have 50,000 people after very brief training who will be able to be a part of this army."

This announcement expanding vaccination capabilities to EMTs comes just twelve days before the state’s deadline for health care workers to be fully vaccinated.

"The potential vaccine mandates are going to set a lot of restrictions to the health care workforce,” Thomas said. “So I think everyone’s getting a little bit creative on how we can fill that gap and help everyone have access to the care that they deserve."

Like other health care settings, staffing for EMTs and paramedics is an issue right now. This added responsibility of administering the COVID vaccine has the potential to further exacerbate those issues.

The number of EMTs that CHS will ultimately train to give the vaccine will all depend on the demand.