COVID-19 outbreak declared at B.C. glass plant, employees given vaccine priority

Click to play video: 'Some companies getting priority vaccine access for staff'
Some companies getting priority vaccine access for staff
While B.C.'s vaccination rollout has largely focused on seniors, some private companies are getting access to shots for their staff. Richard Zussman reports – Mar 12, 2021

Health officials have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a Langley glass manufacturer where employees have been given vaccination priority access.

Fraser Health said Friday that 44 employees at Vitrum Glass had tested positive, and that contact tracing was underway. It was not immediately clear when the first cases were detected.

On Friday, Global News reported that staff at the facility were being vaccinated against the virus separately from the province’s age-priority vaccine rollout.

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Fraser Health did not respond to a request for details on Friday, but in a Saturday media release said it “provided COVID-19 immunizations on-site as measures to stop the transmission occurring at the facility.”

Asked about the prioritization Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said he thought it was the “right approach.”

“This is about vulnerability to COVID-19 in particular workplaces,” Dix said.

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“This was a decision they made with the small amount of vaccine we’ve received from the federal government … to reduce transmission in the community.”

In its Saturday statement, Fraser Health said it was taking an aggressive approach to high-risk workplace settings with COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks, including food processing, farm operations and other settings where workers are in close proximity.

“We are using a number of different means to manage COVID-19 outbreaks, such as immunization for cluster and outbreak control. We are confident that this will help us protect our communities as well as those workplaces,” it said.

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News of the priority vaccinations drew criticism from some other front-line sectors, who wondered why their workers weren’t also being moved to the front of the queue.

“I’m aware that some communities are being vaccinated and some workplaces, but there’s a lack of clarity around exactly why that is, so I think it’s really hard to explain, especially to teachers,” BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said Friday.

“I would like to see first responders, police officers at the front of the line. And I say that because we do not generally get to work in a clinical environment,” added Vancouver Police Union president Ralph Kaisers.

“There’s certainly some members that have already questioned how the priority lists have come out.”

Click to play video: 'Vaccine hesitant care home workers'
Vaccine hesitant care home workers

The province is expecting a significant delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine next week, which is being specifically targeted to at-risk front-line workers.

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An estimated 68,000 doses are scheduled to arrive in the first shipment, followed by shipments of 132,000 doses by the end of April and 68,000 doses by the end of May.

The province has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 293,719 people, or about 5.7 per cent of B.C.’s population.

It has given two doses to 87,024 people.

The province’s mass vaccination plan is currently open to seniors born in 1936 or earlier, and Indigenous seniors born in 1956 or earlier.

Vaccine bookings will open to people aged 80 and over starting the week of March 22.

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