Frontline workers in Surrey are happy to hear the news they will be part of priority groups to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting in April.
On Thursday (March 18), B.C. health officials announced frontline workers, including police, firefighters, child-care, grocery store, postal and K-12 education staff would start getting the vaccine in April.
Surrey Fire Service Chief Larry Thomas said he was “very pleased” to hear the news.
“It helps them alleviate lots of concerns,” Thomas noted.
“Our staff have been very good at following all the safety protocols and making sacrifices to stay healthy, so we can continue to deliver our vital service. That puts a lot of pressure and stress on them because they work in uncontrolled environments.”
He said for firefighters going out to those “uncontrolled environments,” the risk of “being exposed and bringing something home weighs on them quite heavily.”
While the Surrey RCMP directed calls to “E” Division, Eric Stubbs, the assistant commissioner of criminal operations for the B.C. RCMP, said in an emailed statement it’s “great news for all our officers and employees who have been working in these unforeseen circumstances across the province, on and off the frontlines, throughout the pandemic.”
Meantime, Surrey Teachers’ Association president Matt Westphal said the STA and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation has been wanting school staff to be prioritized.
Like all those in priority groups, booking for vaccines will be sorted out in the coming weeks, but Westphal wondered how it will be rolled out.
“Specifically about whether they will prioritize within the group, for example, places within the Fraser Health region or Surrey, just places that have been harder hit. I think that would make sense, but that’ll be up to them about how they work out the logistics.”
In Thursday’s announcement, officials said the priority groups were identified by public health and the COVID-19 Workplace Task Group.
The frontline workers will start to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in April, as part of the province’s second and third phases of the immunization plan.
B.C. is expecting to have 340,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by late May, allowing the more widespread vaccination of front-line workers.
Social distance, masks and other precautions are still needed, as vaccine takes time to be effective and does not entirely remove the risk of infection, and vaccines are not a “get out of jail free card,” Henry said.
Westphal, who is encouraging K-12 education staff to get the vaccine, said the STA and BCTF’s demands for mask mandates in elementary schools have not stopped.
“First of all, this could take some time. People are going to be back at school for some time before they get vaccinated and then it can take up to three weeks, I think, for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be effective,” he said.
“There’s still a lot of things that could happen, so we think it’s really important to, in parallel with having vaccination program, to also require masks. Just do everything we can to throw at this problem to make sure that the last three months of the school year are safe.”
– With files from Tom Fletcher