Teachers, first responders pleased with B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans while others feel left behind
VANCOUVER -- After hearing the news that essential workers would be prioritized in the next phase of B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, many in the selected industries said they were pleased with the plan, while others expressed they felt left behind.
On Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced employees like first responders, educational staff, postal workers, grocery store workers and bylaw officers will be next in line to receive an AstraZeneca shot. Appointments for those doses are expected to begin in April.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation, which has called for stronger health-and-safety measures in schools throughout the pandemic, praised the update.
"Teachers, support staff, and other education workers have gone above and beyond every single day to make sure our students are safe … but, this virus has still found its way into our schools and classrooms," said Teri Mooring, BCTF president, in a news release.
"Teachers and the schools we work in have played a critical role in ensuring a basic sense of normalcy for B.C.'s children and communities."
Mooring said she hopes the announcement eases the anxiety felt by teachers and support staff.
"Like all British Columbians, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought stress, anxiety, and even grief to our personal and professional lives," she said. "I join all of my teacher colleagues in expressing huge relief that educators across B.C. will be prioritized in April to receive a COVID-19 vaccine."
The B.C. Association of Police Chiefs also expressed gratitude for the vaccine update and said the pandemic has been stressful for officers.
"Police operations did not change significantly when the pandemic began and crime in B.C. did not stop. Police officers in the field are unable to eliminate the risk of exposure because they cannot always practice physical distancing due to the nature of their work," a statement from Deputy Chief Const. Howard Chow says.
"We are grateful for the opportunity to protect our officers who will continue to focus on the important task at hand, which is to protect B.C. communities."
But after Thursday's announcement, some industries in the province feel as though they've been left behind.
In a statement Friday, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union said it was deeply disappointed that transportation workers weren't included in the next vaccine rollout phase.
"It seems wrong that our members' diligence and efforts to minimize COVID-19 outbreaks would be used to support delaying our vaccine priority relative to other to other businesses and sectors," the statement says, suggesting other industries had a "seemingly poorer" occupational health and safety performance.
The union says it will be reaching out the province's top doctor to be considered a priority in the rollout.
Kyla Lee, a criminal lawyer in Vancouver, said she was disappointed that court staff, defence counsel and Crown counsel weren't included in the most recent priority list either.
"Our professions have put us at risk for months," Lee wrote on Twitter. "Court proceedings are integral to our democracy and cannot all be done remotely or with distancing."
During Thursday's update, Henry also announced the age-based timeline for vaccine distribution would move up in the province. Now, all adults over the age of 18 are expected to receive a first dose by Canada Day.