‘They are at constant risk and must have access to supports and protections’
Paramedics are calling on the government of Alberta to expedite COVID-19 vaccinations for members of their profession.
They are not among the health-care workers receiving vaccinations this month, and it’s not clear when they will be immunized.
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA) both say they are seeking clarity from the provincial government. The HSAA also raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.
Both associations hope to be included in the second part of the first phase in January or February.
“Our paramedics are responding to the most critical COVID-19 patients,” Mike Parker, president of HSAA, said in an emailed statement to CBC. “They are at constant risk and must have access to supports and protections to ensure they can continue to be there for Albertans facing a medical emergency.”
Dusty Myshrall, president of the Alberta Paramedic Association, said paramedics are put at risk by constantly changing environments and challenges with wearing personal protective equipment.
He said paramedics go from someone’s house or a long-term care facility into the confined space of an ambulance while performing treatments. Their patients often end up in emergency rooms.
Part of the role of a paramedic is performing intubations on COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure, Myshrall said.
“We know that that’s a huge risk for transmission of COVID-19,” Myshrall said. “When we see it done in a hospital, typically that could be in a more controlled environment. Paramedics are doing this in a situation with limited resources, in an uncontrolled environment.
“Paramedics are increasingly at risk here with COVID-19 and they should be vaccinated.”
The province said with limited doses of the vaccine available, it is starting with those who are most vulnerable, and the health-care workers who treat them.
“I think it’s really important to know that the decisions about the first phase of vaccine were focused on individuals who were at the highest risk of severe outcomes, those who are in close contact with those individuals and the groups within the health-care system where there are critical pressures,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said Monday when asked about the decision not to include paramedics in the first wave.
Hinshaw said paramedics provide critical services and decisions about phase two of the vaccination rollout won’t be made until next year.