As the province continues its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, the Alberta Teachers’ Association is continuing to advocate for teachers and other front-line workers to be given priority.
“Even though government has released their phase two plans, that hasn’t stopped us from continuing to ask to make sure that members become a priority,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.
Phase two of Alberta’s plan began on March 10. It provides access to the AstraZeneca vaccine to Indigenous people born between 1972 and 1986 and other Albertans born between 1957 and 1971.
Also, as of March 15, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are available to Indigenous people born in 1971 or earlier and other Albertans born between 1947 and 1956. This rollout also applies to staff and residents of licensed supportive living facilities who were not included in phase one.
Schilling said the government is ignoring the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which recommended several immediate priority groups, including long-term care home residents and staffers, front-line health care workers, seniors, and Indigenous people in rural or remote communities. He also suggested that teachers and other front-line workers should have access to vaccines sooner rather than later.
“This government sent teachers back to packed classrooms without adequate protections and now refuses to prioritize their access to the most important tool to prevent possible infection and spread,” Schilling said.
In a statement prepared for the ATA News, a spokesperson for Alberta Health stated that eligibility in phase two is based on protecting those at highest risk of severe outcomes.
“We recognize that many, many people would benefit from receiving the vaccine, and we want to offer it to them as soon as possible. Unfortunately, due to the limited vaccine supply that is available in Alberta, we must continue to target individuals who are most at risk of severe outcomes. As new vaccines are approved and supply becomes available to Alberta, people between the ages of 18 and 64 who work in specific workplaces or industries may be included in phase two.”
Earlier this month, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation initiated a study by research firm Abacus Data. It found that two in three Canadians believe that teachers and education workers should be a top priority for COVID-19 vaccinations, after health care workers and vulnerable people have been vaccinated. Survey respondents rated teachers and education workers as a higher priority than any other profession.
Other professions that ranked highly in the study included child-care workers, firefighters, dentists and dental hygienists, public transit drivers and operators, and essential retail workers. ❚