January 15th, 2021

Alberta fire chiefs call for COVID vaccines for firefighters

By GILLIAN SLADE on January 14, 2021.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com@MHNGillianSlade

The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association is asking Alberta Health to include firefighters in the class of emergency responders who qualify for the COVID vaccination during the first phase of the roll out.

The AFCA says it is in full support of Alberta Health including paramedics and other emergency medical personnel as people of priority for the vaccine, but firefighters need to be included as well.

In a statement, the AFCA said about 70 per cent of the calls that municipal fire departments respond to include medical emergencies.

“Many of these are to the vulnerable populations, group home settings, seniors care facilities and motor vehicle collisions,” the statement says.

Brian Stauth, fire chief in Medicine Hat, agrees and says both the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association and the Alberta Fire Fighters Association have lobbied the provincial government regarding vaccinations.

“Firefighters across the province including those here in Medicine Hat respond to medical calls in support of AHS, and these can be COVID related calls,” said Stauth.

Especially in rural areas it is the fire department that is often first on scene without prior warning about whether there are cases of COVID-19 present.

“Firefighters are at grave risk of contracting the virus. The risk to their communities also increases as more firefighters go into isolation, often leaving a department short of trained personnel,” the AFCA statement says.

There is the impression that firefighters are expected to provide the same emergency medical services as other agencies but without the protection of the COVID vaccine, the AFCA states.

The News requested comment from Alberta Health on Wednesday about whether the AFCA request is being considered. There was no response before our deadline.

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