Carl Blondell, a senior medic at Med-Care Ambulance in Mexico, gets his first does of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday from James Smart at the ambulance station in Mexico. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — Licensed EMS workers started getting their first dose of Moderna’ COVID-19 vaccine at Med-Care Ambulance on Wednesday and Thursday.

Med-Care Ambulance was selected by Maine Emergency Medical Services as one of two agencies to administer the vaccine in Oxford County. PACE Ambulance Service in Norway will handle vaccinations in the southern part of the county.

Med-Care Deputy Chief Paul Landry Jr., who is spearheading Med-Care’s program, said Wednesday that he hoped that by the end of Thursday’s vaccinations everyone at Med-Care and Rumford Fire EMS who wants the vaccine will have it.

Paramedic James Smart said everything was at the ambulance station at 290 Highland Terrace for a drive-thru vaccination clinic for first responders.

“After Med-Care and Rumford, we’re going to hit all the area fire departments that have EMS licensed personnel. Once the EMS personnel are finished, then we go to the firefighters remaining and police,” he said.

“This is voluntary,” Smart said. “There’s no mandate for this. Everybody is educated on what we know about the vaccine, and then they have the option to refuse.”

Smart said, “The state has said the only potential concern is if anybody declines, and then a couple months later, we’re in the other phases, and then they say ‘OK, I’ll take it,’ you won’t be at the front of the line. You can get it, but they have to work you in.”

Senior medic Carl Blondell, 68, who requested the first vaccination, said, “Getting the shot means everything. With everything that’s going on with today’s world, we’ve got to take anything that’s available to us to see if we can control this.”

Smart said Med-Care has a special refrigerator to properly store the doses and special iPads to upload the Center for Disease Control and Prevention software for entering patient information and tracking. The purchase was aided by a $1,200 donation from the River Valley Rotary Club.

Landry said the state allocated Med-Care with 10 vials of the Moderna vaccine, but one of the vials arrived broken.

“The state has called us to give up some of the vaccine we’ve already received to another county. So we’re in the process of carefully dealing with that. It’s one of those things where you have to cooperate or they may slow us down on the next round. But you don’t want to give up what you already have,” he said.

Landry said vaccinations are only for EMS personnel now and will next go to fire and police in the next week or two.

“We’ll move as quick as the federal government and the state can get us the vaccine,” he said. “That’s a little bit of a concern right now. They are sending us a little bit less next week than they did this week.”

The way it’s set up, supposedly, is that for every dose given they’ve planned on the follow-up dose, he said.

“So we’re going to get those automatically in three weeks.” Landry said. “But what we’re afraid is going to happen is that if there’s less next week, and next week is the third week, they’re going to concentrate only on second doses, so it’s going to slow things down on us. We’re not going to be able to start vaccinating new people for potentially two or three weeks.”

Med-Care Ambulance paramedic Dakota Turnbull, left, takes Carl Blondell’s driver’s license Wednesday to scan information before Blondell gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the ambulance station in Mexico. The information is scanned into an iPad as part of the state’s tracking system. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

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