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New Westminster police renew vaccine plea as 5 officers isolate after COVID-19 exposure

Click to play video: 'New Westminster Police renew vaccine plea as 5 officers isolate after COVID-19 exposure' New Westminster Police renew vaccine plea as 5 officers isolate after COVID-19 exposure
New Westminster's police chief wants to know why his officers haven't been vaccinated after five officers were forced to enter isolation following an on-the-job COVID-19 exposure. Julia Foy reports – May 1, 2021

New Westminster’s police chief wants to know why his officers haven’t been vaccinated after five officers were forced to enter isolation following an on-the-job COVID-19 exposure.

Chief David Jansen said the officers were exposed while arresting a man who later was revealed to be COVID-positive on Thursday.

“I’m relatively confident the officers are going to be fine — they were wearing their PPE and stuff,” he said.

Read more: B.C. aims to immunize all first responders, teachers and child-care workers by mid-May

“But it just highlighted yet again the frustrations that I am feeling, that the officers are feeling, and I’m not here to speak for the teachers and the firefighters in the city, but I think they’re feeling equally frustrated because they’re in the same position.”

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British Columbia is vaccinating front-line workers outside of its age-based vaccine program, with first responders, educators and child-care workers at the top of the priority list.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said about 15 per cent of vaccine supply was going to those groups in recent weeks.

Click to play video: 'More calls to vaccinate firefighters and police in B.C.' More calls to vaccinate firefighters and police in B.C.
More calls to vaccinate firefighters and police in B.C – Apr 10, 2021

The province started in COVID-19 hot spots such as Surrey before moving elsewhere in the province, and was aiming to have everyone in the three groups immunized by mid-May, Henry added.

In a statement, Fraser Health said police and firefighters in New West were scheduled to be vaccinated the week of May 10.

“We recognize that first responders in our communities want to receive their vaccine as soon as possible, and we are working as quickly as we can to facilitate access for these individuals,” the health authority said.

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“We are prioritizing communities where we are seeing the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission, and are completing immunizations in accordance with public health risk assessment.”

Fraser Health said it had “substantially” completed immunizations of police and firefighters in in Surrey, Delta, the Tri-Cities, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, Burnaby and Abbotsford, along with transit police.

“We’re the only city that I can tell from Whistler out to Chilliwack that has not been vaccinated. That’s police, fire and teachers,” Jansen said.

“When you see one little city in a big region not being vaccinated, it doesn’t seem to make sense.”

Read more: ‘Pretty sweet’: First Surrey teachers get immunized against COVID-19

Jansen recently spoke with Fraser Health and said he understood the challenges of limited vaccine supply and virus hotspots.

But he said it left officers, whose job puts them in direct contact with the public, at risk.

“(It’s) not only the physical impact that has on you but the emotional impact,” he said.

“They have families, they’re normal human beings like all of us, they have emotions, and that’s tough to go through day in and day out knowing you’re going to another call that could change your life in a lot of ways with COVID.”

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Jansen said his department is small, with around 200 staff, and that getting them vaccinated should not be a major strain on Fraser Health’s supply.

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