The union representing border services officers is calling on provincial health authorities to add the officers – including those who continue to process truck drivers at the Pacific Highway and Aldergrove borders – to the list of frontline workers who are being given priority for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Border Services Officers operate in environments where they are likely to come into contact with COVID-19 and should be prioritized alongside frontline workers,” Richard Savage, Customs and Immigration Union national vice-president, said in a news release.
“At YVR, one of the few international airports still open in Canada, flights from around the world are still arriving every day. According to the BC Centre for Disease Control over 120 international flights arriving at YVR from Delhi, Mexico City, and other hotspots have had a confirmed COVID case on board since January 1, 2021.”
B.C. health officials on March 18 announced that frontline workers, including police, firefighters, child-care, grocery store, postal and K-12 education staff would start getting the vaccine this month.
Groups to raise concerns in the weeks since about being left off the list also include workers who provide direct support for people with developmental disabilities.
But while the support workers learned late last week that they had been bumped up in priority, the BSOs have yet to receive similar news.
Savage told Peace Arch News Wednesday (April 14) that there have been COVID-19 cases at both South Surrey ports – Douglas and Pacific Highway – as well as in Aldergrove, and in all cases (he didn’t have exact data but estimated the number of positives at at least 10 altogether), they have resulted in others having to self-isolate for two weeks.
Savage emphasized that the union is not asking for vaccine priority over others, but is “requesting that we be added to the priority vaccination plan for the Astra Zeneca vaccine that is currently on hold as are other law enforcement agencies or people who are at higher risk of exposure.”
He said the union has reached out through contacts with local MLAs, including one in Premier John Horgan’s office, with its concerns, but without success. While nationally, the union has succeeded in having its members added to the phase two priority list coming from the National Advisory Committee of Vaccinations, Savage said “those are only recommendations that the province can use or not.”
In the union’s news release, issued earlier Wednesday, Savage noted that Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the only airport in Canada that is open to international travellers where border services officers are not prioritized for vaccination, and called on B.C. to follow the lead of other provinces and address the issue.
“Border Services workers and officers have been playing a crucial role in keeping Canadians safe, all the while exposed to significant on the job risks. They must be adequately protected to continue this important work. Frontline border personnel must not be left behind.”
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