The union representing Montreal firefighters says it wants its members to jump the queue and receive priority when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.
L’Association des Pompiers de Montréal (APM) says firefighters should be added to the list of emergency workers able to receive the dose if they so wish.
“Priority vaccination strikes us as not a privilege but a guarantee of safe intervention for all parties involved,” union president Chris Ross said in a statement.
In Quebec, the vaccination campaign is currently focused on inoculating residents in long-term care homes, health-care workers and people who are at a higher risk of complications of COVID-19.
This includes workers on the front lines of the pandemic, such as nurses, PABs and paramedics.
The union argues firefighters’ line of work is similar to paramedics. It claims that working in close proximity with the public during stressful and emergency situations poses a serious danger to not only the safety of fire crews but also the public they serve.
According to the union, more than 80 Montreal firefighters contracted the virus since the pandemic first bore down on the city in March 2020.
As a result, some 400 crew members were required to undergo quarantine measures which in turn put a lot of stress on staffing, according to Ross.
A major worry for the union is not having enough staff on hand to respond to emergencies if they arise.
“I can’t imagine what a nightmare the situation could create if several more firefighters were to test positive for COVID-19,” Ross said.
In response Quebec’s Health Ministry told Global News in a statement, “the health and safety of SIM employees remains a priority.”
It added the Montreal fire department is currently working in “close collaboration” with the ministry to ensure the acceleration of the vaccination efforts.
Ross says the union has yet to get a clear confirmation when inoculation will begin.
“Right now we can’t even get an answer when were getting it –sometime in the spring– but it lacks creditability to vaccinate paramedics and not us, when we respond to the same calls,” Ross said.