'Paramedics have been deep in the frontlines': Some first responders forced to fight for COVID-19 vaccine
WINDSOR, ONT. -- When Ontario rolled out the list for who could get the vaccine in Stage 1, Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter says he was disappointed paramedics were not included.
Krauter advocated for his 258 frontline paramedics to be moved up the vaccine rollout list.
“Paramedics have been deep in the frontlines, in the trenches of COVID-19 since March of 2020,” he says.
And Krauter says they have been in high risk exposure situations throughout, including testing residents in long-term care in the first wave and conducting drive-thru swab clinics this past summer.
“It’s just not a matter of paramedics going into homes and possibly picking up COVID-19 patients and bringing them to hospital, but we were at the exposure risk of very high,” he says.
Krauter asked to have it changed, and the province initially agreed to move them to the end of Stage 1.
However, just before Christmas, Krauter says they found out paramedics were approved to proceed with vaccines as soon as it could be organized.
Krauter credits the support of officials at the Windsor-Essex Health Unit and Windsor Regional Hospital for clearing the way for paramedics.
Vaccinations started for paramedics last week.
“We've had very good uptake. I think we're around 80 per cent registration and its actually growing every day,” he says. “I'm suspecting that we could be close to 90 almost 100 per cent of paramedics getting vaccinated.”
Meantime, Windsor firefighters also had to battle to move up the list.
Chief of Windsor Fire and Rescue Services Steven LaForet tells CTV News, “I think there was some misunderstanding, or not some great knowledge as to what that definition (of health care workers) fully encompassed.”
LaForet says his 258 frontline firefighters respond to medical calls and they will now be able to get a vaccine.
“It’s not for members of our other divisions, of training division for example, administrative division or apparatus division,” he adds.
Meantime, Windsor police were not successful in their efforts to move up the list.
“It should be rolled out to all, frontline first responders,” says Shawn McCurdy, president of the Windsor Police Association.
He represents 485 officers who he says have numerous contacts every day with the general public, on a wide range of calls for help.
“We don't want to jump the queue in front of individuals who are vulnerable and what not, we just think that all frontline personnel, including police, fire and EMS should be inoculated at the same time,” McCurdy says.
The good news is all first responders are included in the list for the Stage 2 vaccine rollout in Ontario, slated to begin in March.
In the meantime, McCurdy says his members have offered to the hospital and the health unit, to take any last-minute cancellations of vaccination appointments in Windsor.