Firefighters call for inclusion in Alberta’s first phase of vaccinations

CALGARY — Alberta EMS members are now amongst an expanded list of health-care workers eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but other first responders are fighting to be next in line.

The Alberta Fire Fighters Association (AFFA) is left waiting in the wings to be included in the province’s Phase 1 vaccine rollout.

The organization lauds the province’s decision to allow eligibility to EMS personnel, but says all first responders should be included.

“Firefighters, like EMS, are in many cases the first to arrive on scene to positive medical calls providing basic and advanced life support to those who require it, said Brad Readman, AFFA president.

“This often includes patients that are COVID-19, or potentially COVID-19, positive. On a medical call, firefighters do not have the option to socially distance or avoid contact — they provide whatever assistance is called for on site.”

The AFFA says it looks forward to receiving more information from the Government of Alberta on how it intends to secure the safety of all those who work in immediate emergency scenarios. 

Advanced care paramedics, primary care paramedics and emergency medical responders will be among the first responders to be vaccinated in Alberta. Workers will receive emails directly from Alberta Health Services to start booking their appointments. 

Dusty Myshrall, president of the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA), calls the inclusion of EMS in the initial phase of vaccinations an important first step. 

“Paramedics are frontline health-care workers,” said Myshrall. “We are actively treating COVID-19 patients and treating (those) most vulnerable to COVID-19. Vaccinating paramedics will ensure the stability of those critical healthcare services.”

Vaccine program outpacing supplies 

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the goal is to include as many first responders as possible in the first phase of the province’s vaccine rollout, but a shortage of doses remains a major concern. 

“The expansion of eligibility is important as we ramp up out efforts to get as many doses in the arms of health-care workers as well as vulnerable Albertans as possible,” Shandro said. 

As of Monday, Alberta has administered roughly 50,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines (both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech), accounting for roughly 80 per cent of the total doses the province secured. 

That means there is only about 13,000 doses left, which is enough to last about another week. 

Through the first days of 2021, Alberta has administered an average of approximately 3,800 vaccinations per day. 

Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta is expected to receive 677,000 vaccine does by the end of March.

The goal is to be able to vaccinate up to 50,000 people per week by the end of January and up to 200,000 per week by the end of March. 

The province is expected to announce plans to vaccinate all Alberta seniors over the age of 75 and First Nations residents over 65 in the near future.

Kenney says a vaccine likely won’t be offered to the general public until the second half of 2021. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Alberta chief medical officer of health, adds that experts don’t anticipate herd immunity will be achieved until 70 per cent of a population is immunized.

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