A healthcare worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)

Coming vaccinations a relief for teachers, frontline workers

Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows firefighters, police, educators get ready for jab

Teachers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are relieved to be getting a COVID-19 vaccination in the coming weeks.

“The idea of getting the vaccine will be a huge weight off the shoulders of teachers,” said Trevor Takasaki, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association.

“It’s been an incredibly stressful year.”

Starting in April, priority frontline workers as defined by the provincial government will be able to get their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the provincial government recently announced, and educational staff in the K-12 system are included.

Takasaki had been expecting to see teachers vaccinated in July, in time for next September, so to see the shots coming this spring is a bonus.

“People are pretty happy the vaccine is coming, and it gives us hope that next year will look a lot better than this year.”

It is a large employee group in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, with more than 1,200 teachers, as well as other employees in the education system.

Among the most impacted by the pandemic have been on-call teachers, who are without pay when they are told they have to isolate for 14 days, he said.

READ ALSO: B.C.’s COVID-19 climb continues with 716 cases Wednesday

There has been talk of prioritizing the Surrey School District, and Takasaki believes that is appropriate given the high number of outbreaks there. Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows has been impacted much less, he said.

“I’m impressed that our schools are as safe as they have been.”

Maple Ridge City Hall reports the updated BC Immunization Plan has included police officers, firefighters and bylaw officers in the parallel plan for vaccinations. Details are forthcoming, and Fraser Health will be managing the vaccination program for those front line staff serving in our community, said city spokesman Fred Armstrong.

“Our team members are waiting patiently for that formal contact from Fraser Health,” he said.

Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Mike Larsson said he is happy to see that his crews will soon be vaccinated.

“It’s a natural progression in this pandemic,” he said. “One more step back to normalcy.”

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs said the new vaccine schedule is “great news.”

“We don’t yet have the specifics as to how the vaccine will be rolled out, to whom, and when,” said Stubbs, the assistant commissioner of criminal operations for the B.C. RCMP.

“We look forward to learning more in the upcoming days, and once we have a greater understanding, we will ensure that our employees are notified first.”

Other priority frontline workers include child care staff, grocery store workers, postal workers, correctional staff, and more.

READ ALSO: Unmasked man arrested after allegedly spitting in someone’s face in Metrotown

While other people call for appointments to get their vaccination, Fraser Health asks these workers to wait until their employers organize their shots.

The vaccination of the elderly continues, with people aged 74 – those born in 1947 – being asked to book their vaccination appointment by calling 1-855-755-2455 on Friday, March 26 at noon, or book online anytime at Fraserhealth.ca

(With files from Joti Grewal)

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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News