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B.C. health minister defends COVID vaccine priority list amid concerns from bus drivers

Last Updated Mar 19, 2021 at 12:15 pm PDT

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix shuffles papers as he provides a COVID-19 update in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, February 19, 2021. (Courtesy B.C. Government)

Health Minister Adrian Dix says there is limited amount of AstraZeneca vaccine to start with

Dix says all workers are essential, but priority groupings based on science and transmission data

Bus drivers, other frontline workers not included in the next priority grouping for COVID-19 vaccines in B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As bus drivers continue to wonder why they weren’t included in the next priority grouping for COVID-19 vaccines in B.C., the health minister is defending the decision, saying it’s based on expert advice.

Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked Friday why bus operators, HandyDART drivers, and some other people who work closely with the public weren’t on the list of frontline and vulnerable workers that are to receive AstraZeneca shots next month.

He says the province’s plan has been carefully considered.

“We did an assessment of workers, based on an assessment of the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” Dix said. “Everyone in B.C. is essential to our effort. But not everyone has the same risk and a judgement was made. We have a limited amount of AstraZeneca. Quite a bit is coming, 68,000 has already arrived. We expect 68,000 in the last week of March and first week in April. We expect another 136,000 in April. That’s not everyone, that’s a limited amount.”

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He notes B.C. could receive even more doses, especially with word the U.S. will ship doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Canada, with the expectation they will be replaced.

That, Dix explains, could help speed up the process even more — but only time will tell.

“It’s a difficult decision. This isn’t about how essential you are, because HandyDART drivers are essential,” he said. “Ferry workers are essential, transit operators are essential, everyone is essential. People who make things are essential. Everyone’s essential in B.C., in my view, and everyone will receive … their first dose of the vaccine, we believe, by the beginning of July, at the latest.”

The health minister reiterated the primary plan is an age-based one, and that that is the most important.

The question came amid concerns from these groups, with the union representing HandyDART employees saying its members were disappointed that they were excluded.

Union Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, echoed that sentiment.