According to the Alberta.ca website, the Phase 1A immunization distribution includes the following front-line workers:
Health-care workers in intensive care units
Staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities
Home care workers
Health-care workers in emergency departments
All residents of long term care and designated supportive living, regardless of age
Health-care workers in COVID-19 units, medical and surgical units, and operating rooms
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians
There is a vitally essential group of frontline workers missing from the list and it is firefighters.
The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association has been advocating for several months now to have the Alberta government make the change to have firefighters added to the Phase 1A list.
Cochrane Fire Chief, Shawn Polley says, “For us when we go out on our fire first response calls where we are supporting Alberta Health Services and the initial response for the citizens of Cochrane. We are looking for that support with vaccinations to help with our frontline workers.”
Firefighters are trained to save lives including performing CPR and they are often on scene before the ambulance arrives. Polley says, “Fifty percent of our call volume is supporting our citizens with EMS response and of those calls, about five percent of the calls are where we actually are dispatched to support in advance of an ambulance arriving.”
The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association is fighting for all their employees to be added to the 1A vaccine list. Chief Polley explains, “Not only is it for the firefighters themselves, but also our combined members. We do have members who are paramedics or daff care paramedic is actually the correct title. ACP Advanced care paramedic and we also employ primary care paramedics which would be in the EMT level. So we do have members here that care those designations as well as with their professional firefighter qualifications.”
Chief Polley is hopeful that they can bring about the needed change. He feels that they have been speaking to the right people and letters have been sent. There are regular briefings and he knows that the subject has been brought to Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hinshaw’s attention. He feels that their voice is being heard. He graciously realizes that there a lot of moving parts to the process and it is a challenging time with limited quantities of vaccines to go around.
Polley adds, “I think it is important for us to continue with our message and getting the message out that firefighters along with other frontline healthcare workers are an important component to reduce the community transmission.”
It certainly wouldn’t hurt for citizens to help lobby for the change by adding their voice to the ears of MLA’s and town council members.