Getting COVID-19 vaccine is personal for SWFL fire chiefs

Reporter: Andrea Guerrero Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

First responders in Southwest Florida are beginning to get protection from the coronavirus. Getting the vaccine is personal for many first responders in the region.

Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria says he plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as he can, especially after Naples Firefighter Tony Christenson died of COVID-19 in August.

“We want to get to a point where we don’t have to worry about losing anymore loved ones or our brothers and sisters in the fire service,” DiMaria said. “But, really, you don’t want to lose anymore members of our community as well.”

Deaths like Christensen’s due to COVID-19 were a difficult reality many stations nationwide also faced, as each day fire-rescue crews run the risk of getting in contact with people who have COVID-19.

“I think across the fire service there’s been a lot of loss and in law enforcement too,” DiMaria said. “So those losses often hit really close, and it’s a brotherhood no doubt, and we all feel that pain.”

It’s a pain DiMaria hopes no one has to feel, now that first responders have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“That’s the scary part of this pandemic,” DiMaria said. “You just don’t have any idea who is going to be that person, so we need to get vaccinated and use all the universal precautions.”

Having just recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, Chief Larry Nisbet of Bayshore Fire Protection and Rescue Service District in Lee County got vaccinated first thing Wednesday morning.

It’s something Nisbet recommends not just to his team, but other first responders to do as well.

“Having the vaccination and being able to add that layer of protection is going to be a big asset to the public safety community,” Nisbet said.

Firefighters in Lee County started getting vaccines for COVID-19 Wednesday.

Both fire chiefs we spoke to in the region say it is up to each first responder whether they get vaccinated.

Chief DiMaria says most at his station are likely to get the vaccine after the loss of Tony Christensen.

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