Victoria firefighters helping to administer vaccines

Victoria firefighters have joined COVID-19 vaccination efforts to administer shots and provide support in immunization clinics.

Fourteen firefighters have received training from Island Health to fill in at clinics when help is needed.

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The health authority initially requested in March to use off-duty firefighters to maximize the number of vaccines administered to the public.

Firefighters have completed 100 hours in 25 shifts at clinics in the capital region since the first shift at the end of June, said Acting Fire Chief Dan Atkinson.

Island Health contacts the department when there’s a need, and firefighters who have completed the required online and in-person training can sign up for those shifts during their off-duty hours, Atkinson said. He said the firefighters are paid regular wages, not overtime.

“We’re looking forward to assisting as much as possible,” Atkinson said.

The requests come in at fairly short notice, sometimes the day of a shift or a couple of days ahead, he said.

Victoria city councillors approved an agreement Thursday 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 that they haven’t been 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 nursing colleagues have been hired, while others haven’t, she said.

Pettinger said she has no problem with firefighters stepping up to help, but she’s perplexed that retired nurses who are already trained in administering vaccines are being overlooked.

“I just don’t see the logic when you have nurses … who have long careers and took the call when asked to go forward and help and that’s not the front line that you’re going to first,” she said.

Retired nurses are among health-care providers eligible to apply to administer vaccines in mass clinics, along with midwives and dentists.

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

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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