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

The public is being asked to use caution when doing backyard burning in the Cariboo Fire Centre. (File photo)
Caution urged with outdoor burning says Cariboo Fire Centre

Anyone conducting burning must ensure adequate resources are on hand to stop fire from spreading

Janda Group Holdings Inc. has finalized its design for its residential unit project on the second floor of the Boitanio Mall in Williams Lake. (Janda Group Holdings Inc. image)
Boitanio Mall housing development revised design accepted by Williams Lake city council

Janda Group Holdings Inc. is planning for 82 residential units at the site

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. and Victoria’s overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Most Read