Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.

B.C. expands priority groups for faster COVID-19 vaccination

Teachers, firefighters, grocery workers included in expanded priority groups set for immunizations in April

Teachers, firefighters and grocery store workers were among an expanded priority group identified for COVID-19 vaccination on a faster timeline, according to an announcement from the province last week.

The expanded priority groups were identified by Dr. Bonnie Henry, following an increase in supply of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine, which is allowing for more front line workers to get their immunizations in April, according to the province’s top doctor.

“The additional supply of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine allows us to strategically target immunizations to maximize the protection of our province,” said Dr. Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “With each person who receives any of our three safe and effective vaccines, we are all that much safer.

“This targeted outreach builds on the momentum we now have with our age-based program to protect those who have been at work every day, without break and without question, for the past year.”

The announcement is welcome news to local organizations who are now included in the priority group, such as the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association.

“With regards to the news release of yesterday and that K-12 staff are a part of the essential workers who will receive COVID-19 vaccines come April, on behalf of all the members, this is a welcome relief,” said Connie Merz, the acting president of the CDTA, in a statement.

“BC schools have been on the front-line since last April and teachers, support staff, and others have worked around new timetables, cohort/learning groups, new cleaning practices, PPE, and other new protocols to ensure a safe and a “normal” learning environment for all students. To know that our health and well-being are valued, and getting a vaccine in April, is a much needed bit of relief in what has been an extra-ordinarily stressful year.”

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation has been advocating for inclusion in the priority group, as BCTF president Teri Mooring noted that the coronavirus has made it’s way into schools, even as teaching staff have done everything possible to keep everyone safe in the classroom.

“It has taken tens of thousands of education workers working in tough and stressful conditions to keep schools open, students learning, and parents working,” said Mooring, in a statement. “Teachers and the schools we work in have played a critical role in ensuring a basic sense of normalcy for B.C.’s children and communities.”

Firefighters were also included in that expanded priority group.

Scott Driver, the Director of Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services, endorsed the inclusion into the priority group, noting the organization’s role in medical first-response calls.

“We put a lot of effort into advocating on behalf of first responders to make sure that they were considered in the vaccination schedules in the province, but in the end, it was Public Health’s decision as to when and how we would get included,” Driver said.

“So at this point, having an essential service qualification to be included is good news for us. We feel we are part of the public service pre-hospital health care team in our first responder role and in that, we want to care for ourselves and our customers as best we can, and if the vaccinations do that for us, then we’re more than happy to go do our part.”

B.C. is expecting 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May, which will be targeted to priority groups that also include other sectors such as child care staff, postal workers, bylaw officers, manufacturing and warehousing employees ad more.

Additionally, AstraZeneca is also being deployed to sites such as food processing plants, agricultural operations and large industrial camps with close-knit accommodations for workers.

Relevant employees with agencies and organizations that are identified in the updated priority groups set for vaccination will be contacted directly to book immunization appointments. Those in the priority group should not call the public phone lines that are associated with the age-based vaccine rollout.

The public age-based vaccination rollout with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines continues ahead of schedule, and anyone born between 1942-1951 (ages 79-70) and Indigenous peoples born in 1966 and before (55 years and over) will soon be able to call into Interior Health’s dedicated booking line at 1-877-740-7747 to set up an immunization appointment.

This week’s public eligibility schedule is as follows:

• age 79 and Indigenous peoples 55 and older – Saturday, March 20 at noon

• age 78 – Monday, March 22 at noon

• age 77 – Tuesday, March 23 at noon

• age 76 – Thursday, March 25 at noon

• age 75 – Saturday, March 27 at noon

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

Just Posted

It happened this week in 1914

April 18 - 24: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Balsamroot, pictured here, can be found on Sunflower Hill in the Kimberley Nature Park, Eager Hill, Wycliffe Buttes, and many other areas across the Rocky Mountain Trench. (Paul Rodgers file)
Spring’s yearly spectacle of balsamroot

Ever year in May, balsamroot emerges for a brief showy period

Today, on April 22, over 1 billion people will come together – virtually – to mark Earth Day.(Pixabay)
Earth Day 2021: a time to reflect

By Ruth Kamnitzer Today, on April 22, over 1 billion people will… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read