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Should B.C. paramedics be included in first round of COVID-19 vaccines?

Last Updated Dec 18, 2020 at 7:02 am PST

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face shield, an N95 mask and gloves communicates with a colleague moving a patient from an ambulance to the emergency department at Royal Columbian Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on April 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

As health-care workers line up for COVID-19 vaccines in B.C., paramedics will wait until the second phase to get theirs

Paramedics union says members fall between public safety, health care areas

B.C. paramedics union says it wants to see its members immunized against COVID-19 as soon as possible

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Frontline health-care workers will be lining up again on Friday to get COVID-19 vaccinations in B.C., and it seems many paramedics wonder if they should be included in the first round of shots, too.

Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. Vice President Dave Deines the work paramedics do falls under both public safety and health care.

“Of course, that’s raised some questions about where in that priority list paramedics fall. Is it health care or is it lumped in with the other first responder groups?” he explains.

First responders, like police and fire, fall into the second phase of vaccinations in B.C., which is due to start in April.

The province began its vaccine rollout program on Tuesday, immunizing a health-care worker first and continuing to administer doses to that group of workers.

“There’s still a lot of confusion out there right now about where exactly that is,” he says of where paramedics see themselves on the priority list.

“We believe that paramedics should be vaccinated as soon as possible, and high up on a priority list, of course. But the real expert on that is, obviously, the public health officer. So we’re taking direction from them on where that is.”

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He notes that on a daily basis, paramedics enter environments listed in the top vaccine priority groups.

“Whether that’s in the emergency department or in the intensive care unit, transferring patients in or out. In long-term care facilities, doing calls with COVID-positive patients, or just generally 9-1-1 calls on the street where there’s always the potential that the patient is COVID-positive,” he explains.

New Brunswick appears to be the only province including paramedics with health-care workers in the first round of immunizations.

Related video: Health-care worker received first COVID-19 vaccine in B.C.

Increased demand

Deines points out if paramedics do become infected and miss work, it adds even more pressure to an ambulance system already stretched thin.

In addition to challenges around staffing levels, he says paramedics are also dealing with the struggles associated with personal protective equipment.

“Certainly there’s a lot of demand on paramedic services right now,” he tells NEWS 1130. “And, of course, anytime that a paramedic responds now, there’s additional burden of the personal protective equipment that they have to don and doff, as well as some medical procedures around that.

“Certainly, we’d like to see as many measures as possible taken to protect paramedics and of that one of them, of course, is the COVID-19 vaccine,” Deines adds.