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Nova Scotia paramedics continue to face roadblocks in accessing COVID-19 vaccine

Click to play video: 'N.S. paramedics face roadblocks in getting COVID-19 vaccine'
N.S. paramedics face roadblocks in getting COVID-19 vaccine
The union representing paramedics in Nova Scotia says lack of clinics in province combined with the limited hours they’re open is making it hard for workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Graeme Benjamin reports – Jan 21, 2021

The union representing paramedics in Nova Scotia says even though several workers in Halifax have received their COVID-19 vaccines, there continue to be roadblocks for those outside the municipality.

Michael Nickerson, business agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers, says accessibility continues to be an issue for paramedics trying to get their shot in the arm.

“The accessibility, not only the time, but also the locations where the vaccine is being given in Nova Scotia,” said Nickerson.

“Right now it’s in Truro and in Halifax, with plans to roll out some other clinics throughout the province as well.

“Ideally, it would have been nice to have all those clinics up and running at the same time.”

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Nickerson says he understands the difficulty but highlights the importance of getting paramedics vaccinated as fast as possible.

“If paramedics are not vaccinated early on or as soon as possible, there’s potential for them to be super-spreaders,” he said.

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“They go into every hospital, every nursing home, people’s homes in the province.”

The frustration comes as Nova Scotia’s Opposition Progressive Conservatives highlight concerns from rural paramedics, who they say are having vaccination appointments suddenly cancelled because they’re too late in the day.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: N.S. and N.B. paramedics face different challenges accessing COVID-19 vaccine'
Coronavirus: N.S. and N.B. paramedics face different challenges accessing COVID-19 vaccine

They’re calling for steps to be put in place and additional resources to go towards expanding vaccination availability hours.

“Health-care workers, the majority don’t work nine to five,” said Colton LeBlanc, PC critic for Prehospital and Preventive Health care. “They do long hours, so I’d ultimately like to see an increase in clinic hours to increase the opportunity for Nova Scotians to get that shot in the arm.”

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After Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Premier Stephen McNeil was pressed on whether clinic hours would be expanded in the near future, but he said that decision lies with Public Health.

Nickerson says even though members have yet to bring stories of cancelled appointments forward to him, it’s still a cause for concern.

But he says the main priority right now for the union is getting more vaccine clinics across the province.

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“Number one we need more clinics, but we also do need longer hours (of operation). Maybe 12-hour, 14-hour clinics. It’d be a start. We could go from there and see how that works.

“This is much work to do and we need to get those clinics up and running throughout the province.”

It was announced earlier this week that Canada will not receive any Pfizer vaccine doses during the week of Jan. 25, due to delivery delays that have hit countries around the world.

Nickerson says it’s still unclear exactly how that will impact the rollout of vaccines for paramedics. He says he has a meeting scheduled with the Department of Health and hopes that is on the agenda.

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