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Making Vaccinations a Family Affair

June 09, 2021

The Yost family is used to not being able to spend a lot of time together. Tina has been working as a cardiac ultrasound tech at Soundview Medical Associates for over 21 years. Robert has been a firefighter for 33. Two jobs where schedules don’t always line up. So you would think that when they get a free day, they would like to be together. However, they say there is something more important than spending time together — vaccinating the community against COVID-19. “It doesn’t bother me too much. We are used to having different shifts,” said Tina Yost, Paramedic Vaccinator. “When he was doing shift work, I was working evenings at the hospital, so we are used to working apart for stretches of time. It’s always nice to be able to be together, but this, this is just too important.  We will catch up at some point” Robert and Tina Yost are a vaccinator couple. When Hartford HealthCare put out a call for help, they both didn’t hesitate to answer. On any given day you will find Tina at the Sacred Heart clinic, Robert at Central High School. They may even be working in the FEMA mobile clinic. Sometimes together, a lot of the time apart.  It doesn’t matter — putting shots in arms is what counts. “I just felt that this was a historic and important thing to do. When the blast went out that they needed the help, I signed up immediately and asked what did they need me to do,” said Tina. Even before the call went out, Robert was working to try and keep people safe. He is not just a firefighter, which is already impressive. Robert Yost is the Chief for the Westport Fire Department, which also make him the Director of the Office of Emergency Management. “You think back to those meetings and the plans. Everything is changing,” said Robert. “My police chief was reminding me that back in February, we were telling people they were good, they didn’t have to wear a mask. And then two days later, we had that party in Westport with the big outbreak.  We were then telling everyone that they needed masks. We were spraying everything with bleach. Everything keeps evolving, but to be there through the whole process — just trying to help is important.” For Robert, “just trying to help” means stepping out of the office and joining his wife on the front lines of the vaccination effort. “This was an all hands on deck effort. Especially in the early stages where you couldn’t get an appointment and there were long lines,” said Robert. “I just wanted to help out and do my part. I had a skill set. I am a registered nurse. So I figured I could step up.” Both Tina and Robert joined the so many other who stepped up to tackle the pandemic. With over 55 percent of the Connecticut population being fully vaccinated, their effort has not gone to waste. But Tina says those numbers could be better. “I want to see more and more people get vaccinated. I want those who have gotten vaccinated to tell their friends and family how easy it was, simple and painless.  I am so proud of the numbers that Connecticut has, but I would really like to see those get higher.  I would like to keep that fire lit.” As chief of the department, Robert has set the example for the rest of the firefighters in Westport, with many of them now also serving as vaccinators around the region. It’s been a drastic change in the tempo for everyone involved. Robert hopes their efforts can soon bring an end to this crisis, and get them prepared for anything that can potentially come down the line. “Your house catches fire, we come in and put it out. We try to get you resources to get your life back on track. There is a definite beginning and an end. The emergency part is maybe a day or even a few hours,” said Robert.  “This thing has been going on for over a year, and it keeps changing. There is no playbook. Nobody wrote down anything from 1918 with regards to how you run a pandemic. On some things we were caught flat footed. Hopefully we won’t make that mistake again.”