Columbus firefighter reconsiders decision to opt-out of COVID vaccine, here’s why

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Public safety personnel are at the front of the line to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but many Columbus Firefighters and medics originally opted out.

But in Columbus many have opted out, not getting the vaccine when it was offered. Initially about 25 percent of the Columbus Fire and Emergency Medical Services employees did not get the shot.

One of those firefighters reversed course Tuesday afternoon. Firefighter Jeb Mays gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, between 40 and 50 percent have taken the COVID-19 vaccine, Chief Sal Scarpa tells News 3.

But Mays’ shot in the arm Tuesday afternoon didn’t come with some serious soul searching.

“I know a lot of people are scared about the vaccine and they don’t know what the side effects are yet,” he told News 3.

A December COVID outbreak got Mays and others reconsidering. At one point nearly 40 of the department’s employees were sidelined with the virus or put in quarrentine because of contact with someone who had it. That number is now down to six, Scarpa tells News 3.

“I think it was kind of a wake-up call for some of our folks who realized how fast this virus can spread, even among our own folks who are diligent about using personal protective equipment,” Scarpa said.

The virus ran through Station 9 off Macon Road where Mays works. The number of those getting the vaccine has climbed since the outbreak.

“A lot of folks have taken a second look and decided maybe this is something that makes sense,” Scarpa said.

Mays was one of those. And a Saturday mass vaccine event at the Civic Center helped change his mind. As pumped shots into arms in the Civic Center parking lot, he talked to nurses. The science and excitement of those getting the shot convinced him he needed to do this – and sooner rather than later.

“It did change my mind,” he said. “The nurse was doing the paperwork and I was doing the shots. It the excitement, just the happiness to get the shot that changed my mind about it.”

He knew he was giving something many people wanted – and he re-evaluated why he was declining it.

“I have a family,” he said. “I have three children. Like you said, I am a fireman. I am around this every third day. The last thing I want to do is take it home to my family.”

Columbus police Chief Freddie Blackmon tells News 3 that nearly half of his department has requested the paperwork to get the vaccine.

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