CALGARY – Although their profession is considered an essential service, paramedics in Alberta were not included in the first wave of frontline workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
In an emailed statement, Alberta health officials say emergency medical services (EMS) will likely be included in Phase 2 of the vaccine delivery slated to roll out in April 2021.
Union representatives representing 27,000 Alberta healthcare workers, including EMS, tell CTV News many of its members are frustrated with the current prioritization of immunization.
“Our frontline paramedics are responding to the most critical COVID-19 patients in this province,” said Mike Parker, president of the Alberta Health Sciences Association (HSAA), “They are at risk permanent at the highest level and must have access to supports and protections urgently. ”
Parker adds that the leadership within the EMS ranks under Alberta Health Services and the government under Health Minister Tyler Shandro “did not recognize” the issues that EMS members face in terms of the work environment, which is now worsened. by the increase in coronavirus cases.
Parker says he and a few other members of the HSAA, including a paramedic, took part in a conference call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday afternoon.
CTV News did not receive a response after requesting comments from both Minister Shandro’s office and AHS, but Alberta Health released the following statement regarding vaccine prioritization.
“We recognize the important role that teachers, first responders and many others play, and the desire of all Albertans to know when they can access the vaccine,” said Tom McMillan, spokesperson for Alberta Health .
“There are approximately 4.4 million people in our province. We have currently received 3,900 doses. We are receiving limited doses of the vaccine, so we are starting phase 1 with the most vulnerable and the healthcare workers who support them. ”
According to McMillan, decisions about other priority populations or groups shouldn’t be made until early next year and will depend on how much vaccine is secured, how the virus spreads and how the first deployment took place.
“We will make these decisions in 2021 and share them with Albertans as soon as decisions are made. ”
However, other jurisdictions have defined paramedics as a high priority for vaccination in the first or second phase.
Saskatchewan is expanding pilot program to deliver vaccines to 1,950 health care professionals, including frontline cancer care workers, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, as well as key personnel in emergency medical services. high risk areas due to their participation in aerosol-generating medical activities. procedures.
“They’re the ones who are serving long hours in situations where we know we can’t always eliminate all the risks they may come in. And we should be thankful, ”Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Sask Health Authority, said in a briefing Thursday.
The UK also released its vaccination priority list earlier this month.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said the second phase should include groups based on occupational hazards – including “first responders, the military, those involved in the justice system, teachers, workers in transport and civil servants essential to the response to the pandemic ”.
During his briefing on Wednesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health supported the phase 1 deployment and said first responders will be included in subsequent strategies.
“We know that all of these workers provide valuable services and we want to make sure that we get the immunizations to Albertans as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “But we have to make these decisions, again, and the first quarter will be really dedicated to those who are most at risk of serious consequences and those who care for them. ”