VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Desperate times are leading to desperate measures for school teachers who are concerned the COVID-19 virus will get them before they get the vaccine.
Some Metro Vancouver teachers have told NEWS 1130 they’re driving across the region to vaccination clinics, hoping for the off-chance to get an end-of-vial, end-of-day shot.
Sheelagh Brothers teaches in New Westminster. She is too young to get the AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy, and isn’t in Surrey where all teachers are getting doses. Brothers says she got word Friday evening that a colleague just got a shot at a clinic in Fraser Health.
“She said, ‘I just got vaccinated. There’s a clinic in Surrey with leftovers. Here’s the address, go now. Just take a paystub,” she said.
Brothers says she messaged other colleagues, and jumped in the car.
“It was a drive-thru clinic in Surrey and I sat in the line up of cars,” she said.
When she got to the front of the line, she told the worker that she works in New Westminster’s school district.
“She said, ‘I’m sorry, we’re only vaccinating Surrey teachers.’ [I said,] ‘But I got the information from someone in New West who just got vaccinated an hour ago.’ And she said, ‘Yes, we changed the rules 10 minutes ago.'”
The same thing happened when she tried again on Tuesday.
My wife and I teach in Maple Ridge and were turned away around 7:30. We were told there would be no vaccines for teachers from outside Surrey for the next few days due to concerns over their own supply.
— Scott McCafferty (@ScottMcCaff) April 7, 2021
“We’ve talked amongst ourselves, and we say it feels like the Amazing Race,” she said, noting it’s more about life and death.
Another teacher in Coquitlam who is married to someone who teaches in New Westminster, doesn’t want her name used for fear of reprisal.
“There are a few teachers who have been vaccinated, but I guess they’re not supposed to be. They’re doing a protocol breach, I guess. I feel bad for the Fraser Health employees who are just trying to sneak a few people in, I guess, when there’s extra spots and no one’s there,” she said.
She’s gone to clinics twice, in the hopes of getting leftover doses.
“We’d heard that they were maybe considering opening up to other Fraser Health teachers,” she said. “We thought well, it’s worth a try. That location said, ‘No, our directors found out and confirmed that we’re not allowed to do that, basically. Then yesterday, the guy was like, ‘We can get in trouble. We’ve realized we can get in trouble.'”
She recognizes that Surrey is a COVID hot spot, but points out the communities in Fraser Health are intertwined.
“It’s hard to just still not know what the plan is,” she said.
Both teachers say they are not trying to “jump the queue.” They say they want to be at clinics, in case there is a dose left at the end of a vial and they have no one else to give it to.
Brothers says she’s received criticism for the move, adding she’s trying to protect her immunocompromised husband.
Waiting for leftovers. We heard from colleagues that there was a chance for walk-ins, so we showed up. And then were told by a manager that "it had been a mistake" to vaccinate anyone other than Surrey educators, and that we had to sign up in our own district.
— Sheelagh Brothers (@SheeBrothers) April 7, 2021
The program to prioritize frontline workers including K-12 staff, childcare workers, grocery store employees, and postal workers is on pause, with the AstraZeneca vaccine doses being diverted to people aged 55 to 65 in certain parts of the province.
Brothers says she’s frustrated by the “complete lack of communication” as to when teachers other than those who work in Surrey will get their turn.
“If somebody said, ‘Okay, you’re going to get it in two weeks,’ then I could be like, ‘Okay, I only have to wait two weeks.’ But there’s no communication.”
The Coquitlam teacher says she also feels for other workers who have to keep waiting for information about when they will get vaccinated.
“We’re just a small group among many groups that [have] been told we’re essential,” she said. “But then we’ve also been told breweries are being vaccinated and the cannabis industry’s getting vaccinated. And it’s like, ‘Okay, are we essential or aren’t we?'”
There’s no word yet on when the program giving vaccines to frontline workers will start up again.