Vaccine rollout plan & BC Paramedics

Paramedics left wondering where they fit in B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan

VANCOUVER — Paramedics hoping to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible could be waiting until the spring to receive the shot.

B.C.’s rollout is underway for the most at-risk health-care workers in the province, but Troy Clifford, president of Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., said it’s unclear where paramedics fit into the plan.

The province’s rollout plan includes two priority groups. The second, set to start receiving the vaccine next year, lists “fire and first responders.”

“We weren’t specifically identified in the list as paramedics – that was probably an oversight on their part,” Clifford told CTV News. “That did hurt a little bit where they weren’t acknowledged in the original list.”

Clifford said he reached out to B.C. Health Services earlier this week to clarify where paramedics sat in the pecking order, but says he was told it was “still being assessed where we are in the rollout.”

Currently, it appears New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that lists ambulance workers as part of the first phase of injections.

Clifford said he wants his workers to be vaccinated as soon as possible, but understands the capacity limitations.

“We’re obviously the front-line and we’re transporting patients, we’re responding into those hospitals for every call we do as well as the care homes,” he said. “We need to know where we fit so people can be reassured.”

CTV News reached out to the Health Ministry for clarity on where paramedics are in the rollout but didn’t hear back.

Clifford said he’s aware of fewer than 10 COVID-19 cases among paramedics “that potentially could have come from patient exposures,” and that he believes transmission is low because of the amount of PPE worn by workers.

But nine months into the pandemic, workers are hitting fatigue. Before each shift there is a health screening and paramedics must stay home if they are symptomatic.

Because of this, Clifford says a lot of workers have spent some time this year in isolation, increasing the pressure on those still at work.

“I’m 32 years in as a paramedic and I’ve never seen the stress and fatigue,” he said. “We have nights where we don’t have 30 per cent of our resources staffed.”