Manitoba is opening up the COVID-19 vaccine to police officers and firefighters, a move welcomed by the unions representing officers.
On Friday, the province announced first responders and people with "front-line, public-facing roles" will soon eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
While exact details were scarce, Bobby Baker, the National Police Federation director for the Prairies, said the union was thankful for the move. The union represents approximately 1,000 RCMP officers in the province.
"We’re very thankful for (Justice) Minister (Cameron) Friesen making that decision and that announcement," he said. "We look forward to getting the shots in our members’ arms and keeping the community safe."
During Friday’s vaccine update Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine task force, said the guidance for giving firefighters and police officers priority comes from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
She said the exact details of the plan to vaccinate first responders will come in the following week.
The RCMP union had been asking for vaccine priority since March because police officers travel around the province and direct contact with the public is unavoidable. Baker said the news means both police officers and the communities they serve will be safer.
"From hospitals to jails, to people’s houses to schools, you name it, whatever we do during the course of our duties and the dozens of contacts we have every day this makes sure we can do that safely," he said.
The news was also welcomed by Brandon Police Association president Darren Creighton, who said there have been issues over the course of the pandemic with officers needing to self-isolate after coming into contact with COVID-positive people.
"Just like all frontline personnel, we’ve had to step up and be right on the front line of these and deal with people who aren’t following the rules very well. Obviously, we welcome it," he said.
The Brandon Police Association also worked with the Winnipeg police union and Manitoba Police Association to call for vaccine priority.
Both Baker and Creighton said officers are eager to be vaccinated and vaccine hesitancy isn’t a problem among police officers. Creighton said many officers are "extremely eager" to get the shot.
"It’s another safety measure, along with glasses and masks and everything else to keep everybody safe — our members and the public," he said.
The Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police also previously called for the move, saying in late March police officers don’t have the option to socially distance when carrying out their duties.
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