Calgary

Calgary firefighters eligible for COVID-19 vaccine after city designates them as medical 1st responders

Calgary firefighters are now able to get COVID-19 vaccine shots after the city designated them as medical first responders.

Province had left fire crews out of the current phase of vaccine rollout

Calgary firefighters respond to a house fire in Martindale in this June 4, 2018, file photo. Firefighters are now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because they have been deemed medical first responders. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Calgary firefighters are now able to get COVID-19 vaccine shots after the city designated them as medical first responders.

The province excluded firefighters from Phase 2C of the vaccine rollout, which started on April 12, a decision Mayor Naheed Nenshi said made no sense.

He and city officials lobbied the province to make firefighters eligible for vaccines, given the thousands of medical calls they respond to each year, and staffing shortages caused by exposed or infected firefighters having to take time off work.

This week, provincial health officials decided if the city designated firefighters as medical first responders, then they could get vaccinated.

Nonetheless, Nenshi says some firefighters have reported having difficulty convincing pharmacists that they do now qualify for a shot.

"They should point out that they have a letter showing that they are a medical first responder," he said.

"I've heard that there are some pharmacies that are confused about this so let me make it very clear for the pharmacies: firefighters are eligible. I understand that at the AHS clinics there has not been a problem."

Chief Steve Dongworth says he doesn't have information on how many firefighters have had a shot so far.

To slow the spread of COVID-19, Nenshi says the province should make all essential front-line workers — such as teachers, bus drivers and grocery store workers — eligible for vaccination before the system is opened up to everyone. 

With files from Scott Dippel

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