‘You change a life, you save a life’: EMTs in Brooklyn help vaccinate homebound seniors

EMS units ready to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to homebound seniors.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The Fire Department’s team of EMTs and paramedics save lives every day by answering the emergency call of duty — but on March 30, they continued an effort to protect the most vulnerable New Yorkers before receiving a 911 call for help.

The first responders were dispatched to visit the residences of homebound seniors and deliver the COVID-19 vaccine directly to them, as part of an ongoing program created in collaboration with the Fire Department’s Incident Management team and the Department for the Aging.

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro saluted some of these life-savers on Tuesday morning during a send-off ceremony in Canarsie, just before they headed out to deliver upwards of 300 vaccines to the homebound that day.

So far, the Vaccine For All team has already delivered shots to more than 3,200 homebound New Yorkers. The team has also reached out to 14,000 seniors eligible for the program, scheduling appointments in the weeks ahead for seniors to receive the life-saving shot.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks to FDNY Paramedics and Nurses on March 30, 2021 as they prepare to make home visits with COVID-19 vaccine.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“This is absolutely beautiful, what you’re doing for people literally in the greatest need in this whole city,” de Blasio told team members on March 30. “They can’t get to the vaccination. And unless you were there, they’re going to be alone. They’re going to be isolated. They’re going to be fearful. Their families are going to be fearful for them. But then you show up, and you literally saved the day.”

De Blasio described the first responders as being heroic because of their ability to change someone’s life for the better. 

“You change a life, you save a life,” the mayor told them. “You make a whole family feel peace. So, if not for you, a lot of folks would feel hopeless right now. But we’re so glad that our friends in the media are here because the whole city is going to see that just because someone’s homebound does not mean they’re forgotten, does not mean that they’re left out because you’re coming to the rescue.”

Nigro said the efforts of the vaccine team come with the territory of being one of New York’s Bravest.

“Our firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, every day save lives. We’re happy to be part of this program,” he said. “I’m happy that I have the talented people around you from our Incident Management Team that can put something like this together and manage it day-in and day-out for our great city… It’s because of their management skills that we can get this done, and your skills and your dedication.”

A nurse shows off what’s in the travel bag that she will bring with her to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to homebound seniors.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The move to vaccinate homebound seniors was first announced in mid-February, weeks after southern Brooklyn Councilmember Mark Treyger and state Sen. Diane Savino first urged the city to devise a plan to vaccinate homebound seniors, arguing that the vulnerable elders were getting left behind in the city’s vaccination effort.

If you or someone you love is a homebound senior and want to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine, visit vax4nyc.nyc.gov or call 877-VAX-4NYC. 

Additional reporting by Rose Adams

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.