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National Police Federation President says police officers should move up the COVID-19 vaccination pecking order

(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

The President of the National Police Federation believes all provinces including BC should be adopting the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance when it comes to vaccination.

In BC, RCMP and police services are not deemed an essential service and will have to wait like the general public to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Brian Sauve can’t understand why police officers have been put so low on the list.

“To me, it’s asinine, as a police officer you cannot call ahead to find out who is symptomatic or not symptomatic. You are dealing with the risk at hands.”

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“For example, the NACI guidelines have been provided and they have identified what I think are reasonable priority groups so why are provinces spending time and money rethinking it?”

Sauve would like to see all provinces put police agencies up to the priority two list.

“This shouldn’t be a political football. It should just be a simple application of rollout guidelines. From our perspective, policing is an essential service because our members don’t have the option to stay home, telework, or isolate themselves within a bubble – they must be out there.”

“Ultimately, we are looking at having membership of the RCMP as well as other police agencies within Canada and in British Columbia to be moved up to the priority two for their vaccination roll out because this is clearly what the federal government has identified as a clear rollout plan.”

Sauve acknowledged many officers are located in some of the more rural and remote regions of Northern BC and often have to wear a number of hats.

“In a lot of communities, the further north you go, our members are a de facto health nurse, psychologist, social worker and sometimes they are the only representative of the provincial or federal government in a community.”

“A lot of those northern communities are some of our most vulnerable and marginalized in Canada who are at higher risk. So, if we are looking at our first responders who are dealing with them without any ability to triage or get advanced notice of what the people they are dealing with or perhaps infected with then it only makes sense that they should have priority access to a vaccine.”

“The challenge is immunizations for Canadians who are residents of BC, Manitoba or the Northwest Territories should not be a political issue. We shouldn’t be having this discussion to advocate for different groups there should be standardized rollout,” added Sauve.

He also issued the following statement with members of the Ottawa media:

As of today, most provinces have not announced their vaccine rollout priority lists. And, confusingly, there are varying amounts of phases to go through depending on which province you live in – for example, British Columbia has four phases, while Ontario has three, and the Northwest Territories has none.

Some provinces/territories, including Manitoba just this morning, have also signaled that they’ll follow the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance, which identifies key groups for early COVID-19 immunization, including those at high risk for severe illness and death, those most likely to transmit to those at high-risk and workers essential to COVID-19 response, essential services for the functioning of society, and those in living or working conditions with elevated risk for infection or disproportionate consequences, including Indigenous communities.

But it’s not consistent. So, the NPF has written to all provincial premiers, justice ministers, and health ministers to express our concern about rolling out the vaccines in a consistent, safe and appropriate manner, including prioritizing our front-line partners in health and social services.

In short, while we fully support a nationally consistent vaccine rollout, including prioritizing our front-line partners in health and social services, we’ve asked that our Members be considered for priority access to vaccination. This would ensure not only the safety of our Members but also the communities they serve.

In addition, BC RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs provided the following comments to Vista Radio.

“The BC RCMP has been engaged and part of the BC response to the COVID-19 pandemic for months.  Various areas (operations, occupational
health and safety, communications) have participated in regular meetings as we discuss our individual contributions and efforts to address the pandemic.  The RCMP continues to work closely with the local, provincial and national health agencies to monitor and respond to the situation.

We respect that the BC vaccination roll-out plan has just been announced and we will be discussing the plan and its impacts in the days
and weeks ahead with policing and government partners.  We have always indicated that all our front line first responders, especially those in isolated and remote communities, are at greater risk. Of particular concern is the need to ensure that exposures and outbreaks do not deplete detachment resources that could impact community safety.

We note that in the rollout plan these essential workers may be included in the later part of Phase 3 based on vaccine availability and
risk. 

In the interim, we have implemented multiple strategies to reduce the risks to our workforce including:
        – what precautions should be taken when interacting with
individuals at greater risk,
        – measures to take should you come in contact with an individual
suspected of being infected,
        – when/where/how they should use the appropriate Personal
Protective Equipment (PPE).
        – what services or training can be reduced in order to minimize
exposure or contact.

We are constantly assessing our employees and resource deployment based on COVID-19 exposures and emergent needs. We will ensure priority policing takes place in all of the communities we provide service and other responsibilities we have as the provincial police force are not compromised.”

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