Victoria firefighters assist give vaccines

Victoria firefighters have joined COVID-19 vaccination efforts to deliver vaccinations and provide assistance at vaccination clinics.

Island Health trained 14 firefighters to jump into clinics when help is needed.

The health agency first requested the use of off-duty firefighters in March to maximize the number of vaccines given to the public.

Firefighters have completed 100 hours in 25 shifts in clinics in the capital region since their first shift in late June, said incumbent fire chief Dan Atkinson.

Island Health will contact the department when the need arises, and firefighters who have completed the required online and in-person training can sign up for these shifts during their off duty, Atkinson said. He said the firefighters paid wages regularly, not overtime.

“We look forward to supporting as much as possible,” said Atkinson.

The inquiries come in at fairly short notice, sometimes on the day of a shift or a few days in advance, he said.

Victoria city councils on Thursday approved an agreement with Island Health for firefighters to join the vaccination effort. Island Health will cover the associated costs.

Retired nurses interested in helping administer vaccines have expressed frustration at not being hired while others, such as firefighters, are called in to help.

Laurie Pettinger, who retired five years ago after a 40-year nursing career, said she applied to the province to be an immunizer and completed online training but was never contacted. Some of her former foster colleagues have been hired and some have not, she said.

Pettinger said she has no problem with firefighters helping, but she is at a loss that retired nurses who are already trained to administer vaccines are overlooked.

“I just don’t get the logic of having nurses … who have long careers and answer the call when asked to go forward and help, and that’s not the first line to go to”, she said.

Retired nurses, along with midwives and dentists, are among the health care providers authorized to administer vaccines in mass hospitals.

Firefighters have been delivering COVID-19 vaccines in both the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health areas since spring.

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