‘First Line of Defense in the Air': Flight Attendant Seeks Higher Vaccine Priority

“By its definition we are a first responder, we are in the that tube all day with hundreds of people again and again and again," Sturbridge flight attendant Trish Bourassa says

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Now that Massachusetts has expanded vaccine eligibility to residents 65 or older, many are looking ahead to the next groups to be included – and those who some believe should have been prioritized sooner.

Trish Bourassa, a flight attendant from Sturbridge, says she was turned away from trying to get a vaccine at a local hospital, which told her flight attendants are not part of the first responders group that became eligible in Phase 1.

Bourassa, who has been a flight attendant for five years, believes she and her colleagues need the protection.

Starting Thursday, Massachusetts residents age 65 and over and those with two or more medical conditions can begin scheduling their COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

"We really are the first line of defense in the air, we are just looking to be considered that,” Bourassa said. “By its definition we are a first responder, we are in the that tube all day with hundreds of people again and again and again."

Instead, flight attendants are currently set to become eligible in the third group of Phase 2, listed on the state’s guidelines aside ride share drivers, pharmacy delivery workers and Massport workers.

This represents one of the lowest levels of priorities compared to the rest of the country, Bourassa says, even while the long hours and regular close contact makes them more vulnerable to the virus than other workers might usually be.

"Our crews are dropping like flies because they are getting sick because we don't have access to the vaccine,” she said.”

While Bourassa acknowledges that in flying to other states, she may be eligible to get the vaccine, so believes she should have the option to do so in Massachusetts.  

“I should be able to do it in my home state and do it appropriately," Bourassa says.

She said she has tried to contact Gov. Charlie Baker in attempts to move her profession up on the list.

Even while she believes flight attendant should get more protection against the coronavirus sooner, Bourassa says mandatory mask policies and extra sanitation are working, and passengers should feel safe flying.

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