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

Windsurfers enjoying a windstorm on Skaha Lake in Penticton on March 28, 2021. (Sandy Steck Photography)
Wind warning issued for Okanagan Valley

Boaters are being warned of gusts up to 70 km/h by late afternoon on Sunday

Vernon Vipers forward Ryan Shostak (centre) fends off a check from Salmon Arm defenceman to get a close-in scoring attempt on Silverbacks goalie Owen Say during Vernon’s 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play shootout victory Saturday, April 17, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers photography)
Vernon Vipers use shootout to subdue Salmon Arm

Snakes score 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win at Kal Tire Place

Coldstream Fire Department crews stationed at Kal Lake Provincial Park parking lot on Cosens Bay Road on Sunday, April 18, after a car went over a cliff in the area. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Driver escapes after car goes over cliff in Coldstream near Kal Lake Park

The driver has been transported to hospital with unspecified injuries

A GoFundMe page has been launched for a Vernon man whose BX orchard property home off Pleasant Valley Road near Stickle Road was totally destroyed in a fire Saturday, April 17. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Fundraising campaign launched for Vernon man who lost home to fire

A GoFundMe page has been started by family; man taken to hospital with injuries from fire

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

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 Kelowna Pride Festival 2019 participant holds up a flag. (Kelowna Pride Society)
Kelowna Pride, RCMP continue to work on ‘Safe Place Program’

A new committee has been formed to refine the ‘Safe Place Program’ created by the Kelowna RCMP

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Strange smell at West Kelowna apartment prompts evacuation of 150 residents, pets

150 residents ordered evacuated from a West Kelowna apartment building early Sunday morning

This is what’s left of a truck that caught fire at Pyramid Provincial Park off Highway 97 near Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Photo Gallery: Truck gutted by fire at popular Okanagan park, trees saved

Just a metal shell of what once was a pick up truck is left at the scene

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Most Read