Winnipeg mayor wants province to adapt COVID-19 vaccination strategy
WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg’s mayor wants the province to change its COVID-19 vaccination strategy to prioritize essential and frontline workers and people who are homeless or unsheltered.
Mayor Brian Bowman tweeted a series of messages Tuesday renewing calls for a refreshed rollout amid the spread of more infectious variants of concern.
“It’s really trying to advocate what we’re seeing in other jurisdictions, which is increased emphasis on exposure to risk rather than just an age demographic,” Bowman said in an interview. “A 49-year-old who can stay at home and work in their basement is going to be different than a first responder who’s going to be out there in the community putting themselves at risk.”
It comes on the heels of similar calls from some infectious disease experts who say younger people interacting with the public or large numbers of colleagues as part of the job should be considered by officials to receive vaccines sooner.
The concern is people working in settings such as grocery stores, retail stores, and food production facilities are at higher risk of contracting one of the variants.
Manitoba has so far prioritized health care workers, people in long-term care, and members of the general population based on their age.
“At this point in time, there have been no changes in eligibility criteria, keeping in mind the vaccination rollout is ever evolving,” a provincial spokesperson said .
In addition to police, firefighters and paramedics, Bowman mentioned transit operators, teachers, and the city’s critical infrastructure personnel should be included in Manitoba’s vaccine deployment strategy. He noted some first responders, including some paramedics and fire paramedics have already become eligible.
“The impact is potentially broad-ranging for the community,” said Bowman. “Of course another group we’re continuing to advocate on behalf of is our unsheltered and our homeless community.”
“The new variants are changing the game. There’s no doubt the vaccine deployment strategy in the province of Manitoba needs to adapt to meet the new threat that is here in this third wave.”
Jada King, who works at a Winnipeg coffee shop, said she’d happily get the vaccine if workers in the food service industry were to become eligible.
“I personally would enjoy getting the vaccine knowing that I would be safer from getting COVID, or contracting it again as I did in September,” said King. “Lots of young people like me work in essential businesses and are exposed to multiple people throughout the day.”
King is confident in the measures and protocols at her workplace but knows working in the public comes with some degree of risk.
“Being exposed and working for eight hours during my shift is a little intimidating, but getting the vaccine sooner than later would definitely be on my priority list,” King said. “It would make me feel safer.”
Romeo Ignacio, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, said transit operators need to be protected to help keep themselves and others safe.
“Our operators are actually in a unique workplace environment,” Ignacio said. “It’s not like you contain that exposure to a certain office. We’re everywhere.”