AUSTIN, Texas - Over the last three days, more than 120 Austin-Travis County EMS workers have received their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
With the Moderna vaccine now arriving at hospitals in Texas, dozens more first responders will be offered vaccinations in the days to come.
Austin EMS and firefighters actually didn't expect to start receiving those vaccines so soon, but Dell Medical School called them over the weekend to let them know they had additional doses.
"This is the gift that everyone asked Santa for," said Division Chief Ed Piker of Austin-Travis County EMS.
"We were trying to get this before Christmas so having those doses as quickly as possible, means that providers will have immunity that much sooner to a disease that we've been battling for almost a year now," he added.
So far, more than 120 EMS workers have gotten the vaccine.
Although those who respond to patients daily are prioritized, they aren't all being offered the shot at once. "So we are asking people to come after shift so that if they experience any of the unlikely side effects from the shot, that they won't be unable to come back to work when their next shift comes around," Piker said.
So far, no serious side effects have been reported from the group.
"Except for sore arm, nothing of consequence," said Piker.
Firefighters were also included in the doses given out over the weekend and, though it's not mandatory, several of them couldn't wait to get one step closer to immunity. "It’s my understanding I am the first firefighter in Austin Fire Department to get the vaccine," said fire specialist Elijah Tennefrancia from the Austin Fire Department.
"Some of it’s self-serving, I wanna protect my family I think vaccination will do that," he added.
Responders will have to wait until after the new year for their second dose.
All Austin first responders are mandated to continue wearing masks and other protective equipment whenever responding to a call.
As for police officers, they are further down the vaccine distribution list, so they don't expect to get their first doses until closer to the end of January.