Valley fire leaders receive coronavirus vaccine, hope others will follow

Dec 18, 2020, 4:45 AM
(KTAR News/ Ali Vetnar)...
(KTAR News/ Ali Vetnar)
(KTAR News/ Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX – Three leaders from the fire service in Arizona rolled up their sleeves Thursday morning for their first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon drove the group through the point of distribution vaccination site in north Phoenix. In collaboration with Mayo Clinic, HonorHealth expects to vaccinate 1,000 people a day at the site going forward.

“I shouldn’t be first in line, but I really felt it was important to show my troops – hey let’s go do this and be on the front side of this thing and protect the public,” Shannon said after he received his vaccine.

The Scottsdale Fire Department has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The department has had 70 firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19.

Four members have fallen critically ill with the virus, including one who may have their career ended due to lasting side effects.

Phoenix Fire Captain Bryan Willingham, who serves as the Vice President for the United Phoenix Firefighters Local 393 union, was also part of the group to receive the vaccine. He contracted the virus just weeks ago. Even though he has since recovered, he has been eager to get the vaccine for many reasons.

“It’s my responsibility as a father, to protect my crew – it’s my responsibility as a captain, to protect our firefighters and the community because it’s my responsibility as a union leader,” Willingham said.

Willingham said he’s worried about bringing the virus home because he’s married to a cancer survivor and has five children – one of which he described as immunocompromised. With the vaccine, he feels more confident working on the front lines.

Willingham noted some firefighters who are part of the United Phoenix Firefighters Association are wary to get the vaccine.

“There are some that are hesitant about it, that’s another major reason I wanted to come down and demonstrate to our firefighter brother and sisters on the job that this is safe,” he said. “I don’t blame some people for not trusting it, but you can also get the answers to your questions if you do your research.”

United Scottsdale Firefighters Association President Sasha Weller also received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday morning.

He wanted to set an example alongside his fire chief for other members to follow in their footsteps.

“Our members are out there on the front lines every single day; they’re dealing with the sickest people that are out there in the community and we want them to be protected,” Weller said.

The three men had no side effects following their first doses.

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Valley fire leaders receive coronavirus vaccine, hope others will follow