COVID-19 vaccines coming in April for frontline workers was welcome news to Langley teachers, first responders, and others who had higher exposure risks than the average person.
On Thursday the provincial government announced the acceleration of its vaccine program in British Columbia to include firefighters, police, and child care, manufacturing, grocery store, postal and K-12 education workers.
The move comes as health officials procured additional supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the province says it is ahead in the age-based vaccine roll-out.
Beginning next month those identified by public health in “priority groups” will start to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Tanya Kerr, president of Langley Teachers’ Association, representing 1,924 members, said the news came as a “surprise,” but local educators are “ready for the relief.”
“We’re grateful that it’s happening sooner rather than later,” she said.
Teachers, among other frontline workers, were not included in the province’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 immunization plan that saw residents and staff of long-term care facilities receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and later seniors and hospital staff.
NEW: Our COVID-19 vaccine rollout is ahead of schedule. Share the weekly schedule with your community and help a senior book an appointment. Please only call your regional health authority if it’s your turn!
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) March 19, 2021
When Kerr is offered the vaccine, she said she’ll be ready to roll up her sleeve.
“I trust in our medical system… I will take it,” she said.
Similarly, Langley firefighters are also breathing a sigh of relief.
“It’s good news,” said Township of Langley assistant fire chief Dale Steeple.
“We’ve been waiting for that [announcement]. It’s going to be a positive effect for our career members… along with our paid-on-call members.”
In November, the Township fire department had several members test positive for coronavirus. In March 2020, the department saw seven members enter self-isolation as a result of an exposure while on duty.
“We’ve not had any other outbreaks,” Steeple confirmed.
City of Langley deputy fire chief Scott Kennedy said the department is “fortunate” they have had no outbreaks during the pandemic.
Kennedy said firefighters have been waiting for news of when members would be offered a vaccine.
“I think, overall, the idea of just being able to get vaccinated… is a sense of relief,” he said.
But it’s not lost on Kennedy that other frontline staff are also waiting for jabs.
“We’re not the only essential service group… we’re all competing for limited amount of vaccine,” he said.
There are roughly 40 City firefighters, and about 200 in the Township who will be eligible to receive vaccinations.
But Steeple noted that safety protocols at fire halls will not change once members are vaccinated.
“[We want to] set an example for the community and to ensure the members are safe,” he said.
Eric Stubbs says it’s “great news.”
“We don’t yet have the specifics as to how the vaccine will be rolled out, to whom and when,” said Stubbs, the assistant commissioner of criminal operations for the B.C. RCMP.”
“We look for learning more in the upcoming days, and once we have a greater understanding, we will ensure that our employees are notified first.”
The province is asking the public not to call into the age-based call centre to book an appointment unless you are eligible. More information about the vaccine roll-out for frontline workers is expected in the coming days.