British Columbia

Surrey school staff to begin receiving vaccines Wednesday

Superintendent Jordan Tinney announced on Twitter that starting March 24, Fraser Health will begin a phased vaccination of school staff. He said the hope is to have them all vaccinated by April 1.

Province previously announced K-12 educational staff would be among workers prioritized for vaccines

A Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose is prepared in Halifax. Surrey schools announced that all school-based staff will be receiving their vaccines in a priority phased approach starting Wednesday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Teachers and other staff at Surrey schools are set to receive early access to coronavirus vaccines starting Wednesday, the school district said.

Superintendent Jordan Tinney announced on Twitter that Fraser Health will begin a phased vaccination of school staff starting Wednesday.

He said the hope is to have them all vaccinated by April 1.

"Our hope is that all our school-based staff will take advantage of this opportunity and get vaccinated as their school is eligible," Tinney wrote in a letter to staff and posted on Twitter.

"These immunizations will help address ongoing community transmission and help protect our staff, students and larger school communities."

Surrey superintendent Jordan Tinney said the vaccination effort will initially focus on schools in areas hardest hit by COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In his letter, Tinney said clinics will start with a capacity of 400 people per day and "quickly increase" to 1,500 per day. He noted there are 9,000 school-based staff in the district.

Tinney said the phased approach will first focus on staff of the schools in areas with the highest rates of community transmission: Panorama-Sullivan, City Centre and Newton-Fleetwood. 

Once a school's staff become eligible for vaccination, he said, letters will be sent with information on their appointment including their allotted time slot.

District staff who are not based at school sites are not eligible for vaccination through this effort, Tinney added.

Surrey risk 'highest in the province'

The province announced last week that more than 300,000 front-line workers in B.C., including K-12 educational staff, will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine next month as B.C. moves ahead with its vaccination plan.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said efforts are underway to prioritize vaccine supplies for harder-hit areas.

"We're looking at a whole bunch of things around the communities where risk is highest and Surrey is the highest in the province," Henry said.

"We don't have enough vaccine to do everyone in the school system right now so we will be prioritizing by where the risk is greatest."

Health officials have consistently said that while there have been exposure events in B.C. schools, transmission has been low within school settings and classrooms are generally safe. 

Henry reiterated those points Monday, adding the COVID situation in schools reflects what is happening in the wider community and schools in areas with higher community transmission will see more exposure events.

Exposures are disruptive to learning, however, especially when entire cohorts must self-isolate as a result, she said. Minimizing those disruptions is one reason school staff will be a priority.