Committee tentatively endorses prioritizing Calgary critical workers in vaccine rollout

A Calgary city committee has tentatively approved the idea of advocating for critical workers in the city to be added to the province’s COVID-19 vaccination priority list.

A notice of motion, put forward by Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison, calls on city council to advocate to the Alberta government that the city’s “critical infrastructure workers” are prioritized as more Albertans are expected to be inoculated in the coming months.

According to Davison, critical infrastructure workers include select positions within the Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Police Service, Calgary Transit, Water Resources and Services, Calgary 911, and Water and Recycling Services.

“This really isn’t about queue jumping,” Davison said. “This is really about trying to ensure that those critical workers that are dealing with the public each and every day are number one protected for themselves and are also contributing to the protection of others.”

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Read more: 9,000 more Alberta health-care workers to be vaccinated as 263 new COVID-19 cases identified

The second phase of the province’s vaccine rollout is slated to begin in April, according to the government website.

“I certainly hope it’s sooner than that,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday. “I do think bus drivers, firefighters, police officers and others should have some priority.”

Alberta is currently in Phase 1A of its vaccine rollout, with home-care workers, long-term care and supportive living residents, health-care workers in intensive care units, respiratory therapists and staff in long-term care homes and designated supportive living facilities in line to get their shots.

Health-care workers in COVID-19 units, medical and surgical units, and operating rooms as well as paramedics and emergency medical responders were recently added to the latest phase of the rollout.

Read more: Alberta paramedics, emergency medical responders eligible for COVID-19 vaccines

Phase 1B is set to begin in February and will include seniors 75 and over, no matter where they live, and people 65 and over living in a First Nations community or Métis Settlement.

According to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, deciding which groups get their shots while the vaccine supply is limited is critical. She added the goal for health officials is to prevent severe outcomes.

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“I want to emphasize again that choices around the sequencing of vaccines (are) not about the value that people bring to their work to the society,” Hinshaw said. “(It’s) about preventing deaths, preventing severe outcomes like hospitalization and wanting to make sure that as we’re sequencing, we’re doing that in a way that protects those at greatest risk.”

As of Monday, 149,138 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province with 54,024 Albertans fully immunized with two doses.

Read more: Canada prepares for single biggest Pfizer vaccine shipment to date

Nenshi said his concern is now turning to the distribution of vaccines after several setbacks and slowdowns in vaccine supply over the past month.

“Before we know it, we’re going to have more supply than we have the ability to put in people’s arms,” Nenshi said. “Our goal needs to be to solve that problem now before it happens and make sure we are ready to do mass vaccinations as soon as supply is available.”

The city’s priorities and finance committee gave technical approval to Davison’s notice of motion.

Ultimately, city council will have the final decision, which is expected in the coming weeks.

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“I think making sure that the city is still up and running and working is critical for our economy and our health,” Davison said. “So I certainly hope that the province of Alberta takes that into consideration as they plan Phase 2.”

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