B.C. grocery store workers left out of COVID-19 vaccine rollout for frontline workers
VANCOUVER -- They’re on the provincial government’s list of essential frontline workers, but grocery store workers aren’t yet being offered priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“I hate to say it, but it would appear that we’ve been lost in the shuffle,“ said Charles Pratt, assistant to the president of UFCW Local 247, which represents 10,000 Loblaws employees throughout the province.
“The grocery workers, there is a real sense of disappointment in the stores when they’re out servicing,” he said. “You hear about it. You can feel it.”
More than month after the essential worker priority list was unveiled, with grocery story workers on it, little has changed, Pratt said.
“There just hasn’t been that widespread rollout that, in my opinion, the grocery industry was promised and is expecting,” he said.
The age restrictions placed on the AstraZeneca vaccine have thrown a wrench in the province’s original plan to vaccinate frontline workers in certain priority industries. Other groups that were on the list are being offered Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but so far, grocery workers are not.
“We are focusing first responders, on school staff and on child-care staff, as we know protecting them protects our children, who cannot yet be immunized, and also reduces that societal disruption,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday.
She recommends grocery workers over the age of 40 try to get an AstraZeneca vaccine at their local pharmacy, but those appointments are now hard to come by.
“There was a lot of uptake of the vaccine in pharmacies around the province, and we have very little of it left in the province right now,” Henry said.
For grocery store workers who can’t get an appointment at a pharmacy or are too young to qualify for AstraZeneca, “it’s very, very frustrating,” said Pratt.
“They’re looking for their opportunity to get vaccinated so they can keep going out there and providing everybody with the groceries that they need on a day-to-day basis,” he added.
With cases surging, he says grocery store workers are increasingly scared.
“As we tell the employers and I would mention to the politicians, when people get scared, they start thinking about not going to work,” said Pratt. “And let’s face it, we all depend on the grocery industry to put dinner on the table.”
The grocery workers union’s message to Henry as she decides who to prioritize for the next round of vaccine deliveries?
“We don’t expect to rocket to the top of the line, but we certainly expect to be included with the rollout of the vaccines for the essential workers,” Pratt said.