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Taxi drivers demand to be put on B.C.’s front-line vaccine priority list

Click to play video: 'Taxi drivers demand to be put on B.C.’s front-line vaccine priority list' Taxi drivers demand to be put on B.C.’s front-line vaccine priority list
Okanagan taxi drivers are disappointed they've been left at the curb when it comes to the province’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Front-line priority workers will be eligible for vaccines starting in April, but cab drivers are not among the 300,000 B.C. residents on that list. Shelby Thom reports. – Mar 23, 2021

A B.C. taxi driver says those who drive cabs for a living should also be given high priority status when it comes to the province’s vaccine rollout.

Earlier this week, the province updated its COVID-19 immunization plan. Starting in April, those deemed to be front-line priority workers will be able to receive their first vaccine dose.

The province’s list of front-line priority workers includes first responders, teachers, postal workers, and grocery-story workers, among others, but not taxi drivers.

Read more: British Columbia prioritizing teachers, child-care staff and first responders for COVID shot

Anita Reles of Summerland, who works for Courtesy Cabs in Penticton, believes cab drivers should be added to the list given the risks they take.

Reles says she averages 20 to 30 trips a day, that often her fares have two or more customers, and that being exposed to 100 customers daily is common.

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“And a big component of that is we’re picking up people at the airport,” said Reles. “When everyone was called back into Canada, we were the ones at the airport, four to five times a day, picking up these people and taking them home.”

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She added taxi drivers pick up a variety of people, including those going for COVID-19 tests or going to the local hospital, and that taxis are confined spaces with limited room.

“We should be on that list,” said Reles.

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Below is the province’s current list of front-line priority workers:

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  • First responders (police, firefighters, emergency transport)
  • K to 12 educational staff
  • Child care staff
  • Grocery store workers
  • Postal workers
  • Bylaw and quarantine officers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Wholesale/warehousing employees
  • Staff living in congregate housing at places like ski hills
  • Correctional facilities staff
  • Cross-border transport staff
  • Sectors or settings prioritized due to outbreak response (currently happening)

The owner of a competing taxi company in Penticton agreed completely with Reles.

“They should be (on the list),” said Raj Gill of Eco Taxi. “We’re front-line workers; we face a lot of risk, we have really close contact with customers.”

“Absolutely,” echoed Dave Kassam of Vernon Taxi. “We should have been on every list from the very start and we’ve been forgotten in this whole process.

“But we’ve been here every single day; we’ve never closed and our drivers should be treated like the rest of the front-line workers.”

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How front-line workers will be prioritized for vaccine in B.C – Mar 19, 2021

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