SURREY (NEWS 1130) – First responders in Surrey and White Rock have moved up the line for COVID-19 vaccinations, and the first doses already started going into the arms of police officers and firefighters Monday.
Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko, who is the acting media relations officer, says there’s a jubilant mood around the department since shots started to be administered.
She says just knowing members will have at least some protection against the coronavirus lifts a big psychological weight.
“And you know on a personal level I have assisted in cells and searched people, one person recently that did have COVID. And I know just the fear of bringing that virus home or giving it to other people accidentally is something that I also felt,” Sturko told NEWS 1130.
“I do feel grateful that part of that worry, as I continue to do my duty, is reduced. So, you know, thank you to science, and thanks to everybody out there on the front line administering vaccines who’s making this possible,” she added. “There is a psychological toll that takes place, even knowing that you’re interacting with people who have COVID.”
— Elenore (@elenoresturko) April 12, 2021
Police and firefighters in Surrey and White Rock started booking appointments through a new, specialized portal on Saturday.
White Rock Fire Chief Ed Wolfe tells NEWS 1130 he’s scheduled to receive his first shot on Tuesday — once again bringing a sense of relief.
“It’ll definitely allow me to breathe a little easier. You know, operating an essential service, I’m always concerned about being able to maintain enough capacity to remain operational,” he explained. “We’re not a very large department so if we lose even one or two members it makes a big difference to our overall capacity. And the threat of having COVID run through the department is a very high risk.”
Just last week, eight firefighters and police officers in Surrey tested positive for the coronavirus. The cases prompted concern from the Surrey Fire Service’s chief and others over what potential spread could mean to the community.
Wolfe says his team has also been hit hard by COVID-19.
“We’ve experienced a similar outbreak in White Rock as well. On a per-capita basis, our numbers would be close to the same as what happened in Surrey,” he said.
Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas tells NEWS 1130 his members are thankful to everyone who made this possible.
“This recognizes the public safety services they provide and the limited number of workers available to do this work,” he said Monday. “Surrey continues to be the epicentre of the pandemic and community transmission is very high. Surrey is accounting for about 25 per cent of all the new daily cases in the province right now.”
Thomas is hoping other first responders will soon receive their shots, too. He hopes to get his first dose “at the end, after all my front-line staff have had an opportunity.”
On Friday, Canadian health researchers recommended moving away from an age-based approach to COVID-19 vaccinations, with the shift to now prioritizing those who are most at risk of contracting the virus.
“It’s great news for our members, it’s I think great news for the community, and we really do hope that our other colleagues across the Lower Mainland are right behind us,” Sturko said.
On Monday, vaccinations began in Whistler for anyone over 18 who wants one.
There has been some criticism, after vaccine plans to have teachers and other school staff in Surrey were put on pause over concerns with the AstraZeneca vaccine and its potential links to rare blood clots in people under the age of 55.
It remains unclear when or if this program will resume.