Teachers are front-line workers and should be vaccinated early, Sask. Teachers Federation says

"Front-facing occupational groups" may not get the vaccine until May or June, the province's chief medical health officer says.

'Front-facing occupational groups' may not get the vaccine until May or June: Dr. Shahab

Patrick Maze, the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, says teachers should be vaccinated 'early on.' (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Teachers are front line workers and should be vaccinated early in the province's inoculation efforts, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) says.

"[Provincial officials] relax some of the social distancing restrictions that the rest of the public is supposed to follow in our classrooms," STF president Patrick Maze said. "And we know that many classrooms have upwards of 30 or more students.

"As front line workers, we would expect [they] understand the importance of teachers [being] healthy and allowing them to continue to do their work."

Maze said there are some groups, such as residents of long-term care homes, that need to be prioritized first, as the province is doing according to its vaccine rollout plan.

But within that plan, Maze added, "teachers need to be vaccinated early on."

'We have been getting a lot of requests'

The province's vaccine rollout plan has so far only identified front-line health-care workers, residents and staff of private and publicly-operated care homes, seniors 80 and older, and residents of northern Saskatchewan as the priority groups for the first phase of vaccination in January and February. 

On Wednesday, Health Minister Paul Merriman said that once the province enters the second phase of vaccinations, "we'll be looking at what are the next priorities."

"We have been getting a lot of requests from a lot of different areas saying that they would like to be the next in line. We prioritize them based on the science," Merriman said.

That second phase is scheduled to begin in April and "will continue priority population immunization while providing widespread vaccine access to immunize the general population," according to the province's initial announcement of the plan.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said the province's vaccine oversight committee is looking at populations by age groups and also considering what medical conditions have been most common among Saskatchewan residents who have died thus far after being infected with COVID-19.

Shahab said the province has only received enough vaccine doses to inoculate the priority groups already identified.

He added that based on current estimates, "front-facing occupational groups" such as teachers would likely only get the vaccine "as late as May and June," followed by school-aged children in July and August.

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Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

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