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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The organizers of the annual 39 days of July festival hope to return to live shows in Charles Hoey Park this year, like in this photo taken in 2019, but audiences at the show may be limited to 50 people due to health protocols. (File photo)
39 Days of July hoping for outdoor events in Duncan this summer

Annual music festival will run from June 25 to Aug. 2 this year

Cowichan Valley WildSafeBC coordinator Amanda Crowston teaches a Grade 5/6 class at Ecole Cobble Hill last fall. (Submitted)
The bears are back in town and so is WildSafeBC

The bears are back in town so keep an eye out, reminds… Continue reading

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
Bus link between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley expected by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in Regional District of Nanaimo budget

North Cowichan has heated exchange over timelines of its official community plan review. (File photo)
North Cowichan’s OCP review divides council

Tight timelines leads to heated debate

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
All of B.C. will eventually ease out of COVID-19 restrictions at same time: Henry

People who have received two doses of a vaccine can’t yet return to post-pandemic activities with each other, she says

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Mom still hopeful for Island man who left care six months ago, hasn’t been seen since

Support from community, police keeps search alive for Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Most Read