Lethbridge firefighters are among the thousands of Alberta Health Services employees with an Oct. 31st deadline to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The AHS mandate includes all firefighters who double as EMS personnel, which is the case for every Lethbridge firefighter.
A constitutional challenge was filed by a group of Alberta firefighters, contesting the mandatory vaccines.
“We are already overstressed, overworked and stretched thin,” Edmonton firefighter Tim Moen, a spokesperson for the group Fight for the Frontline, said.
“It has been a demoralizing year and a half, to say the least.”
The city of Lethbridge doesn’t provide vaccination numbers by department, but for all city staff – including fire and EMS – of the 79 per cent of employees who have their vaccination status, 97 per cent are fully immunized.
“As a corporate policy (and in the case of fire and EMS, a contract obligation with AHS), all staff must comply as per the terms of their employment with the city of Lethbridge,” a statement form the city reads.
“If they do not comply with the policy, there will be several actions that can be taken, up to and including dismissal.”
Employees at the Chinook Regional Hospital must also have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the month.
A statement from AHS reads: “We are confident that the vast majority of our people will be immunized.”
AHS adds vaccination numbers are “fluctuating hourly” and it is hoping to have a better idea of how many employees are immunized within the week.
Moen says the potential loss of unvaccinated firefighters would be irreplaceable.
“These aren’t guys who are rookies on the floor. These are guys who have put in 20, 30 years.
“They’re officers and mentors,” Moen said.
“The amount of organizational and institutional knowledge and experience… that we’ll lose here is disproportionate to the percentage of people we’ll lose.”
Global News reached out to the union representing Lethbridge firefighters, but it declined to comment.