A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver on Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver on Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

‘Patchwork quilt’ approach to COVID-19 vaccine rollout frustrates worker groups

Executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association calls the lack of co-operation an ‘ongoing problem’

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations across the country is frustrating several groups of workers who identify as front-line employees and want to be bumped up in the queue.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization makes recommendations for the use of vaccines and groups that should be prioritized, but each province has the responsibility for health care.

“It is frustrating,” said Shelley Morse, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, in Wolfville, N.S.

“We know that (the committee) is calling for prioritization of different working groups. And when they call for people in ‘congregate settings’ to be prioritized that would include teachers and education workers.”

She said the federation’s 300,000 members who work in classrooms are at risk and should be included in the second phase of vaccinations across Canada.

Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories are including teachers in that phase, Morse said, but not other jurisdictions.

She said the federal and provincial governments need to sit down and agree to a national list.

“When it comes to the pandemic, we have to stop pointing fingers and saying, ‘That’s not my job. That’s your job.’ The governments need to listen to the epidemiologists, look at the data, see the evidence and do what’s right.”

Federal cabinet minister Jim Carr, the government’s special representative to the Prairies, has said Ottawa is willing to work with the provinces — but they have the final say.

“We’re working closely with the provinces and public-health partners on the immunization campaign,” he told a recent news conference.

“Provinces are the lead, but we are doing everything we can to get vaccines where they’re needed.”

The executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association calls the lack of co-operation an “ongoing problem.”

“There are different standards for immunizations generally across the country,” said Ian Culbert.

“It’s a catch-22. That flexibility provides provinces and territories the ability to respond to their local circumstances. But it creates a patchwork-quilt approach that says if cancer patients in P.E.I. are being prioritized, why aren’t they being prioritized in Alberta?”

The list of groups asking to be moved up in the queue behind front-line health workers and older Canadians continues to grow and also includes agriculture workers, grocery store staff, meat-plant employees, prison guards, community doctors and cab drivers.

The National Police Federation and several police unions also have called for priority for officers

“We have a very uncontrolled and unpredictable environment,” said Regina Police Chief Evan Bray.

“We are asking in the middle of the night to bring people who are COVID-positive into our detention unit to hold them until we can find a detention facility where they can go.”

James Bloomfield with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said he had hoped guards would be vaccinated at the same time as inmates, just as staff in long-term care homes were vaccinated along with residents.

“We’re a federal agency and, unfortunately, instead of combining us with the military or other federal agencies, they left us out and left us to the provinces,” he said from Winnipeg.

“The concern for us is the mismatch and the sort of pieced-together plan for all the different provinces.”

An advocate for the homeless in Calgary said people living on the streets should be prioritized.

Chaz Smith, founder of BeTheChangeYYC, said homeless people are more prone to infections, hospitalizations and to dying of COVID-19.

He said the immunization committee recommends priority for those who are at high risk of illness and death and are likely to transmit the virus.

“When we look at this population, in kind of communal settings and groups, they’re more immune-compromised and more likely to transmit. They should be prioritized.”

READ MORE: Nurses fight conspiracy theories along with coronavirus


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

Tom Smithwick has written a new book, Knocking On Freedom’s Door, about his experiences advocating for a drug addiction treatment program in Kelowna. (File photo)
‘Knocking On Freedom’s Door’: A retired Kelowna lawyer’s insights to mental illness, addiction

Freedom’s Doors advocate Tom Smithwick shares what he has learned from experiences of treatment program clients in new book

Royal LePage Arena was an addition to West Kelowna championed by Len Novakowski. (File photo)
West Kelowna community leader Novakowski dies

Former Westside regional district director Len Novakowski dies after lengthy health battle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read