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Calgary to call for COVID vaccine priority for frontline city workers

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic set up at the South Calgary Health Centre.
COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic set up at the South Calgary Health Centre.

Calgary will ask for frontline workers in public transit, utilities and emergency services to be prioritized in phase two of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

City council unanimously approved a motion from Coun. Jeff Davison on Monday that calls for advocacy to get Calgary’s “critical infrastructure workers” in line to be vaccinated. The next phase of Alberta’s vaccine plan is split into four steps, and mostly focuses on broadening eligibility based on age. Some additional health-care workers and people who live in certain kinds of congregate settings are also included in the next immediate vaccination plans.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi will pen a letter to the province asking for some of the essential workers at the city to be included as well.

“It really says that if it makes sense for us to vaccinate people working in seniors’ care facilities, maybe it also makes sense to vaccinate people like bus drivers or firefighters — bus drivers because they’re dealing with lots of public (and) firefighters because they often respond to medical emergencies, which may include COVID,” he said.

Currently, any Albertans born in 1946 or earlier are eligible to receive a vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

Council’s vote comes as the province eased some public-health restrictions Monday , allowing group fitness with some limitations and the reopening of libraries at 15 per cent capacity.

Davison said the vaccine advocacy isn’t about queue-jumping, especially when so many vulnerable groups are still waiting for the jab. But if there’s enough supply, he said city workers deserve more certainty about when they can get access.

“These are the people helping get us to work. They’re the people responding to the emergencies in our community,” he said.

“We rely on these people to carry out the functions of our city, and we should, as a council, advocate on their behalf, because protecting them is protecting all Calgarians.”

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Only people who work certain jobs in critical infrastructure would be considered for prioritization. Davison said it should be about people who regularly deal with the public, not people who are able to work from home or an office.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Chief Sue Henry said about 20,000 people in Calgary would need to be vaccinated to cover those working in critical infrastructure jobs.

“I believe that this would have a very positive impact on the entire resilience of Alberta if they were included in phase two,” she said.

Coun. George Chahal said he’s heard from transit drivers who live in his northeast ward about their fears of contracting COVID, and the risks they face when they interact with the public on a daily basis.

As of the end of February, 101 Calgary Transit workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Not all those cases were in frontline workers like bus drivers, but Chahal said many employees are carrying an additional burden every day.

“Also knowing many of their colleagues have gotten the virus has been a tremendous impact on them,” he said.

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Twitter: @meksmith

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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