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

From the left: Beth Plotnikoff, Madeline Williams, Shannon Frederick and Sheryl McIver pose for a photo outside their Market Avenue t-shirt stand Saturday, April 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks businesses raise money for Phoenix snow cat

T-shirt proceeds to go toward a used snow groomer for the mountain

A class is in isolation after a potential exposure at J.V. Humphries School in Kaslo. Photo: School District 8
Kaslo school’s class isolated due to possible COVID-19 exposure

A class at J.V. Humphries School is home for the week

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

Jake the service dog is trained to give calming hugs to his caretaker and handler, Rae-Lynee Dicks, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Jake and Rae-Lynne: The story of a Grand Forks woman and her service dog

Jake is on his way to completing his training, but it’s been difficult to socialize him in the pandemic

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read