(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser recognized The First Five — the first five members of DC’s Bravest who will take the coronavirus vaccine this week. As frontline health care providers, the District of Columbia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan designates members of the DC Fire and EMS Department (FEMS) among the first to receive the vaccine in Washington, DC. Within days, DC’s Bravest will be among the first to receive the long-awaited vaccine.
“Today, we have hope. After a long and tragic nine months, help is finally on the way. The First Five are sending a strong message about the importance of this vaccine to protect them, their families and loved ones, their patients and coworkers, and our entire city,” said Mayor Bowser. “Our frontline health care workers and emergency responders have led our community through this pandemic with courage and compassion, and now we are proud to deliver this vaccine to them. Finally, we can work together to end this pandemic. While we must stay vigilant during this nationwide surge in cases, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.”
DC Health has arranged for Kaiser Permanente to administer the vaccine to FEMS members beginning this week. Kaiser is expected to receive their initial doses of the vaccine on Wednesday, December 16, and FEMS members will receive the vaccine at the Kaiser site.
Acting Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly and Dr. Robert Holman, the Department’s Medical Director, will join Lieutenants Joseph Papariello and Keishea Jackson in being the first members to receive the vaccine. The First Five, who are all DC residents and whose biographies are below, recognize this monumental time in the District’s history and are getting vaccinated to protect themselves, their brothers and sisters in the firehouse, their families, and the patients that each of them compassionately treat and care for every day.
Acting Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly was nominated by Mayor Bowser on September 4, 2020 to serve as the next Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief and to lead the 2,100 member DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Chief Donnelly started his career with DC Fire and EMS in 1992 at Truck 16. Over the course of his career, he has served at Rescue Squad 3, Tower 3, Battalion Fire Chief 2; as the Division Commander of Special Operations, Homeland Security, and Apparatus Division; and as a member of the Command Staff in Special Projects and Executive Officer Roles.
Dr. Robert Holman began his medical career by attending the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He continued on to intern at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and returned to the District for his residency in Internal Medicine at Georgetown University. After completing his Chief Medical Residency there, Dr. Holman went on to a fellowship for Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. He joined the Department in February 2016.
Lieutenant Keishea Jackson joined the Department in 2003 and is assigned to the Department’s Homeland Security Division.
Lieutenant Joseph Papariello joined the Department in 2003 and is an officer of Engine Co. 23 in Foggy Bottom.
“My father is everything to me, he’s my world. And if I don’t get it for any other reason, I have to get it for my daddy. I have to make sure he’s safe,” said Lieutenant Jackson. “I’m getting vaccinated for my city. In the last nine months, I’ve seen COVID devastate my department. I’ve seen my brothers and sisters go into the hospital. I’ve seen them with severe symptoms – things we never thought we would see. I’m getting vaccinated for my coworkers, I’m getting vaccinated for my family, and I’m getting vaccinated to make a change.”
Chief Donnelly and Dr. Holaman are fully confident in the vaccine’s development process, its safety, and its effectiveness; both recognized that while taking the vaccine is voluntary, it is an important and necessary step in ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am so proud of the work and dedication our members have displayed over the last nine months,” said Acting Chief Donnelly. “We have all been through a lot, and they each deserve to be one of the first in the District to get this vaccine.”
“The vaccine is a game changer for this Department and its members, who selflessly give of themselves to the hundreds of patients who call on them to help each day,” said Dr. Holman. “The best strategy for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic is through widespread vaccination, and we believe getting vaccinated will not only protect our members, but those we treat and compassionately care for every day.”
The Department will be receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses and the Department is planning for members to be on duty when they receive both shots of the vaccine.
Last week, the Mayor and the Director the Department of Health, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, announced that six sites in DC would receive the District’s initial allotment of 6,825 vaccine doses: Children’s National Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, Howard University Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Howard University Hospital and George Washington University Hospital are expected to be the first hospitals in DC to receive the vaccine.
The District’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan can be found at coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccine.