A little over a year since the pandemic hit British Columbia and months after the province’s vaccination program began, thousands of first responders and frontline workers on Vancouver Island finally have a shot and being able to get their shot.
Island Health confirmed Friday that approximately 18,000 frontline workers including first responders have been the go-ahead to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments starting May 1.
The vaccination program runs separately from the province’s age-based cohort, and workers will still need to register through the Get Vaccinated online portal.
Paramedics aren’t included on the list, as they were vaccinated during the first phase of the province’s vaccination program but among those on the list are teachers and assistants, who say their turn is long overdue.
“It’s been a couple of times we’ve been told teachers are being prioritized and a couple of times we’ve been disappointed so I am feeling cautiously optimistic about this time,” said Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association president Winona Waldron.
Waldron said School District 61 had eight more exposures in schools last week so she’s hoping there are no more delays for teachers to get vaccinated.
“I’m relieved we’re at this process now but I’ll be much more relieved when I actually see people booking appointments,” she added.
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Also on the list of frontline workers are police officers, firefighters including forest firefighters, and licensed daycare operators and staff.
“We want to keep our schools open, we want to keep our cities safe, we want to make sure fires are fought and we want parents to be able to feel comfortable going to work knowing their children are in a quality daycare setting and also that the people providing the service are immunized,” Island Health’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, said on Friday.
Firefighters have been concerned for months that they weren’t given higher priority considering the number of medical calls they respond to and direct contact with potentially sick people.
“We’re quite pleased,” said Comox Fire Rescue assistant chief Rick Shelton. “It’s really only a matter of time before we could come in contact or have been in contact with people that may have been infected with COVID-19.”
There were some glitches when the computer system opened up for frontline workers trying to book their appointments at noon Saturday.
“Unfortunately, I’ve tried several times and so have a couple of our members and the access code provided is not working at this time,” said Shelton. “I’m hoping it’s just a glitch and that later on in the day we’ll be able to move forward with this.”
Island Health says it hopes to have all of the frontline workers listed in this current phase vaccinated by mid-May.