New York allowing EMTs to administer COVID vaccines, but some have staffing concerns


In this March 2021 photo provided by Pfizer, vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for packaging at the company’s facility in Puurs, Belgium. On Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, the company said it started the application process for U.S. approval of a booster dose of its two-shot COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and older. (Pfizer via AP)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —  Emergency Medial Technicians, or EMTs, will soon be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines in New York. 

Governor Kathy Hochul made that announcement Wednesday. She said she hopes EMTs will be able to help with the influx of people wanting to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 booster shot. 

According to the governor, allowing basic EMTs to administer vaccines will add more than 2,000 fully trained vaccinators statewide, and add 50,000 basic EMTs who are now eligible for training.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for EMS professionals to expand their scope of practice. It’s something we’ve been trying to do in the state for decades, to show that we’re not just quote on quote ambulance drivers and fancy EMS taxis, but that we can do a lot of things in our community. So from that aspect, we’re very, very excited,” said Syed Ahmed Mustafa, the President and CEO of the Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support. 

However, Mustafa also worries about EMTs being pulled some of their important duties. 

“The risk we run is of taking people that could be transporting patients to the hospital and staffing ambulances, and instead taking a slightly easier and higher paying job doing vaccination clinics, because right now, every EMT and paramedic is incredibly valuable to their service that they work at,” he said. 

Like many other industries, Emergency Service Systems are feeling a staffing shortage. 

“We are running a quarter to a half the capacity on some shifts, you know, nights and weekends are very, very tough. And EMS providers in general, were exhausted…we have not stopped during this pandemic at all,” Mustafa said. “People are leaving the emergency medical service industry faster than we can replace them, which is then putting more of a burden on those that remain. And it’s tough.”

Monroe Ambulance is also seeing a staffing shortage. 

Mike Bove, the Deputy Chief at Monroe Ambulance, says they are down about 14 EMTs. He hopes that allowing them to give COVID-19 vaccines will bring more people to the field.

“A lot of people that have been in the business for a while, I guess, like to look at different aspects of the business and sometimes preventative medicine versus emergency medicine can be what it takes to get somebody involved,” Bove said. “I personally would rather go out and try to keep people out of the hospital and having to go in a ride in the ambulance versus, you know, taking people at the worst moment of their lives in an ambulance into hospitals.”

To help with the shortage, Mustafa says he hopes booster shots can be given at their bases so they don’t have to take staff off the road and shots can be done between calls. 

“To me, that’s a place where we get a lot of value for something that expands our scope of practice, doesn’t cost us a loss of labor, it doesn’t cost the state any money,” Mustafa said.

Although EMTs already can give some vaccinations to people, they will have to go through a training to give the COVID-19 shot. 

“There’s five modules that are included in that in the training. That being you know a little bit about the history, the background about the COVID vaccines, their development, considerations for them, the proper administration techniques and process, the proper way of handling the vaccine itself,” Bove said. 

According to officials from the governor’s office, the required training for EMTs can be completed online or in-person and licensed EMTs can become a State-approved vaccinator by demonstrating skill competency online or in-person. 

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