Sask. teachers, police disappointed by exclusion from Phase 2 of vaccine delivery
REGINA -- The unions that represent Saskatchewan teachers and police are voicing disappointment in the province’s updated Vaccine Delivery Plan.
Teachers and police are upset that the plan does not prioritize them for vaccination.
“For the last year, the pandemic response in schools has been disjointed and reactionary,” Patrick Maze, STF President Patrick Maze. “If keeping schools open truly is a priority, we must do a better job of managing the response and protecting our students and schools.”
The STF has asked the Government of Saskatchewan to:
- Address how it will mange new variants of COVID-19.
- Gather and provide data on transmission in schools.
- Implement rapid testing in schools to increase detection of the virus.
“The province has access to rapid response kits; I encourage school boards to access these kits and implement widespread testing to ensure their response plans are based on data,” Maze said.
The Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers doesn’t believe the government understands the role police have played on the pandemics frontlines.
"How many times we are sent to detention orders with people that have tested positive for COVID-19, having to house them in our cells and even having to transport them," Casey Ward, SFPO president said. "We’re extremely frustrated, we’ve received quite a few calls from our membership and a lot from our memberships families that are very concerned."
In addition to detention calls, Ward said police have also been called to deal with mass gatherings in violation of the public health orders and put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19.
"We’ve never said no, we keep on continuing on, trying to work with the government, trying to keep our officers safe and that’s why we feel we should be a priority in this," he said.
Ward added they only asked for frontline officers, who deal with the public on a daily basis, to be included in the priority list.
The Saskatchewan Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association is also expressing disappointment with it’s requests to be a priority group for the vaccine in Phase 2 were ignored.
"Considering that our profession provides a great deal of frontline healthcare before these patients often enter the healthcare system, we’re struggling with the reasoning and logic behind it," Lloyd Zwach, president of the association, said.
The union has about 1,200 members around the province. About 200 of its paramedic members have already been vaccinated.
"To consider that one group is somehow different than the other when we’re both providing the same skills and treatments to patients, I’m struggling with the logic," Zwach said.
Teachers have also continued to work through the pandemic, dealing with rising cases in schools. Maze said the government passing over teachers for the vaccine sends a mixed message.
"We’re told schools are very important, we need to keep them open at all costs, but we’re not going to protect the workers who are in those buildings," he said.
Both groups say they never heard back from the government about being included in the priority group.
VACCINE DELIVERY UPDATE
On Tuesday the Saskatchewan government outlined who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase of its Vaccine Delivery Plan.
The government said Phase 2 of vaccine delivery will focus on the general population in 10-year increments, starting with people in their 60s and working down.
Merriman said he has heard from various groups lobbying to be prioritized within the Vaccine Delivery Plan, and while they all have valid points, he said the government wants to focus on age.
“What we're looking at right now is getting a large quantity of vaccines in a short amount of time. So the best way to distribute that, and get it across our province as fast as possible and as safe as possible, is to look at age categories – that's also where we've seen the attack rate of COVID,” said Merriman.
According to the province, age is the main risk factor when it comes to COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths as older people are more likely to have conditions that put them at risk.
The second phase will include a targeted vaccination campaign for adults and staff in group homes and shelters. This phase will also target “clinically extremely vulnerable adults”, which includes people who are undergoing certain cancer treatments, people with severe respiratory conditions, and those with a variety of other ailments.
No start date has been set for Phase 2. According to the province, it could start in April, but it is dependent on vaccine supply from Ottawa.
With files from CTVNewsRegina.ca's Janelle Blakley.