Some Saanich firefighters have expressed concerns about first responders in the Island Health Region not being prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an outbreak at a fire station would make service delivery a challenge. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Some Saanich firefighters have expressed concerns about first responders in the Island Health Region not being prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an outbreak at a fire station would make service delivery a challenge. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Some Island firefighters not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine despite working on frontlines

Saanich members express frustration, department calls on Island Health to take action

Saanich firefighters are still waiting for their COVID-19 vaccines despite working on the frontlines and some members are expressing concern.

On Tuesday, Asst. Deputy Chief Rob Heppell told Black Press Media that Island Health has not notified the Saanich Fire Department when firefighters will be eligible for vaccines outside of the age-related registration process.

Health authorities are “targetting areas where there’s a high incidence of COVID-19” and the Saanich Fire Department has been fortunate in that there have been no exposures among members, he said.

To protect staff, the department implemented increased cleaning protocols, social distancing and personal protective gear requirements, and established a fourth temporary fire station at the Pearkes Recreation Centre.

READ ALSO: Saanich firefighters adjust to COVID-19 while maintaining community connections

However, while the efforts have kept members healthy, it’s meant their risk appears low and therefore they’re not being prioritized for vaccines – despite responding to emergencies involving positive COVID-19 cases.

The department has reached out to Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, to request Saanich firefighters be vaccinated, but no updates were available as of April 20.

READ ALSO: Pandemic meant more blazes, fewer calls for Saanich firefighters in 2020

There’s some frustration among members and firefighters are looking forward to getting vaccinated, Heppell said.

Saanich firefighters aren’t alone as other departments in the region – and across the country – are also waiting for their vaccines.

On April 12, Fire Chief Joe Zatylny of the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services shared on Twitter that 65 of the department’s 1,300 members had tested positive for COVID-19 leading to some 4,500 absences and making service delivery challenging. Saanich Deputy Fire Chief Dan Wood responded to the post noting this is what keeps fire chiefs up at night because an outbreak at a fire station would be devastating. He added resources are already stretched thin and this is the time to provide first responders with protection.

READ ALSO: Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay fire reach ‘modern’ service agreement

On April 20, Port Moody Fire Chief Ron Coulson also expressed concerns, as Fraser Health has yet to provide vaccines for firefighters and “an outbreak would decimate (their) ability to respond.”

For now, Saanich firefighters are waiting their turn to register for vaccines per the province’s age-based schedule.

“We’re hanging in there,” Heppell said, adding he’s proud of members’ patience and resilience throughout the pandemic.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

CoronavirusSaanich

Just Posted

The City of Nanaimo has developed concepts for an extension of the Harbourfront Walkway from Departure Bay ferry terminal to Departure Bay Beach. (City of Nanaimo image)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: City hasn’t shown it has capability to build walkway

Is it really a good idea to consider a hyper-expensive, complicated mega-project, asks letter writer

Regional District of Nanaimo directors discussed asking the provincial government for increased funding, awareness and enforcement against human trafficking. (File photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo asking province to better address human trafficking issue

Directors agree to write to the premier and solicitor-general after hearing from advocate

Conductor Willi Zwozdesky and pianist Nico Rhodes led 66 local vocalists in song for the Nanaimo Sings video project Keeping Calm and Singing On. (YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo Sings virtual performance features 66 vocalists

Fifth Nanaimo Sings festival was to have taken place this year

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

A driver was taken to hospital after crashing a pickup truck into a tree on Rutherford Road near Bradbury Road on Friday, May 14. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Driver taken to hospital after crashing truck into tree on Rutherford hill in Nanaimo

RCMP investigating incident at Rutherford and Bradbury roads on Friday, May 14

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
RCMP arrested a man in north Nanaimo who wound up empty-handed after allegedly failing at shoplifting, bank robbery and robbery at ATM machine. (File photo)
Man arrested in Nanaimo after failed attempts at bank robbery, ATM mugging, shoplifting

RCMP arrest suspect in office-supply store after ‘short-lived crime spree’

Most Read