COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Prioritization – Update

The IAFF position on PPE, testing and vaccines is that fire fighters who respond to emergency medical calls should be given the same considerations and protections as other frontline healthcare workers.

Keeping fire fighters healthy during a pandemic not only protects fire fighters, it helps ensure enough personnel remain healthy and available for duty to protect the lives and property of others.

A 2009 RiskAnalytica study determined that without intervention such as priority access to vaccines and other measures, up to 30 per cent of fire fighters could be unavailable for duty in the case of a moderate or severe influenza pandemic. This is especially concerning during the height of the current COVID-19 pandemic, when emergency response systems across Canada are under strain.

The federal government has emergency response plans that provinces, territories and municipalities adopt or build on to use in their own jurisdictions. In 2017, the Public Health Agency of Canada updated the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Planning Guidance for the Health Sector (CPIP). It provides strategic guidance and a framework for pandemic preparedness and response; as well as supporting technical annexes to provide specific operational advice and technical guidance.

The CPIP outlines a framework for prioritization of vaccine distribution in the Vaccine Annex Table A2 - Proposed population target groups for vaccine prioritization (where fire fighters who provide medical response are listed as a priority group under health care workers (HCWs). The table is found on page 44 of the linked document. This language specifying fire fighters was added to the plan as a direct response to lobbying by the IAFF.

As provinces, territories and municipalities refer to federal guidance for their pandemic plans, the IAFF recommends providing this guidance from the federal government if locals have any difficulty gaining access to vaccines, once available.

In the meantime, if you experience any pushback in attaining access to testing and other precautionary measures, please notify your District Vice President and the IAFF Canadian Office immediately.