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9/11 survivors calling for vaccine access

Posted at 11:24 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 23:26:34-05

LEE COUNTY, FLA — Walt Zalisko says everything about September 11, 2001, is burned into his memory.

"My first impression was it looked like a scene from a disaster movie, he said.

For the former Jersey City Police Department Lieutenant, that means, the people, sounds, smells, and dust that covered the city.

"I always thought there is something that is going to happen, there is gonna be some lasting effect of breathing that stuff in. But you didn't think of it in that moment, your primary focus was helping the people around you and that's what we did," he said.

But Walt was right.

He would go on to develop a series of conditions as a result of being down there that day, like thousands of other 9/11 first responders and survivors.

They're folks like attorney Michael Barasch. He's a survivor, who represents others like him and says the pandemic is hitting their community hard.

"My law firm has already lost over 100 clients who had COPD or asthma and then got COVID-19," he said.

According to the Governor's executive order that outlined phase one of our state's vaccine plan, this community is one that should qualify for the vaccine as part of a special "exception group."

But they, like many others who qualify for that exception, are being shut out of the process.

"I think it's so unfair that people who are over 65 and healthy are going before people who are under 65 with co-morbidities," said Barasch.

And now, they're asking this of the governor:

"It's very important that not just myself but anybody who worked 9/11 or was at 9/11 has some type of access to this COVID-19 shot," said Zalisko.

"It's a joke that they are now allowing people with co-morbidities under 65 to get the vaccine, but if they can't get an appointment what good does a change in the law do? Make it easier," said Barasch.

If you do have a condition linked to 9/11, you may qualify for medical care through the World Trade Center Health Program.