Head of Ontario task force says paramedics will have to wait for vaccine

Click to play video 'Peel paramedics union seeks clarity on when members will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine' Peel paramedics union seeks clarity on when members will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
WATCH ABOVE: Union representatives for paramedics in Peel Region say they feel as if their members have been forgotten about when it comes to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario. They are calling on provincial authorities to issue more clarity for when their members will be able to receive their vaccinations, and are asking them to expedite the process given the risks their members face. Katherine Ward reports. – Dec 29, 2020

As the coronavirus vaccine is rolled out to Ontario health-care workers in hospitals and those in long-term care homes, paramedics say they are anxious for their turn.

Dave Wakely is the president of OPSEU Local 277, the Peel Paramedic Union. He said the lack of clarity around when the vaccine will be available is difficult for his members.

“We want to be treated as health-care workers because we are doing the job of health-care workers,” Wakely said.

“We are frustrated by a government who is more than happy to put us on the frontline, but when it suits them, forgets that we are on the frontline.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Muskoka, Ont., paramedic tests positive for COVID-19

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Since the pandemic hit, work responsibilities now come with added risk on each call.

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Wakely said any number of duties can fall to a paramedic in the field, including intubating patients in uncontrolled environments.

He said sometimes members will respond to a call for one person they know has COVID-19, and there are four or five additional family members displaying similar symptoms.

Wakely said it feels as though their members have been forgotten about by the provincial government. They are now calling on Premier Doug Ford to take action immediately.

Government officials, meanwhile, said there are simply not enough vaccines for everyone at this time. The result is that choices have to be made about who will get a vaccine first.

Read more: Ontario clarifies priority COVID-19 vaccine list, revealing multi-part rollout plan

“We can’t vaccinate people any faster than we can if we don’t have the vaccines to do it,” said Ret. Gen. Rick Hiller, chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

Hillier said paramedics will have to wait a few months before it will be their turn.

“They will be picked up in the latter part of phase 1, March, into the front part of phase 2 which is April or May. That’s most likely when they will be seen,” Hillier said.

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He also said any help from the federal government will be key to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“I’d challenge Health Canada, hey, deliver us vaccines as fast as you possibly can,” Hillier said.