“NOT YOU”, IS NOT THE APPROVED ANSWER. But it is the answer some Alberta health care workers now get when they ask: “Who gets the leftover vaccine?”
Managers of at least two Alberta healthcare sites recently told non-professional staff that they were no longer going to be included on the list of those eligible to receive any COVID vaccine that remains unused at the end of each immunization day.
Meanwhile their bosses, who are not on the frontline at the sites and can mostly work from home, remain in the queue to get their shots. Some have already received the leftover vaccine doses that are at risk of expiring.
Bosses violate their own policy
This is a clear violation of Alberta Health Services (AHS) policy which states: “remaining doses should be allocated in a fair and equitable manner that can withstand scrutiny about favouritism.”
There is nothing fair and equitable about any of this, says Bonnie Gostola, Vice-President of AUPE (Alberta Union of Public Employees), the union that represents the workers.
“AHS is playing favourites. They’re violating their own rules and letting the high-paid bosses jump the queue, while they kick the low-wage, minimal-benefit workers out of line.”
Unlike their bosses, the workers denied a fair and equitable chance at the vaccine leftovers come into contact with sick Albertans every day. They work as administrative assistants, security, housekeeping and community testers at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre and Strathmore Community Care.
They calm patients, clean infected rooms, conduct COVID tests or help the public with paperwork. They all worry the longer they go without vaccination, the more likely they are to catch coronavirus and spread it into the community, especially in rural Alberta.
“They’re feeling really demoralized right now,” says Gostola.
“AHS gave them the impression all healthcare heroes were equal, with an equal opportunity to receive the lottery doses. But clearly the health authority has rigged the game. They’ve entered some people twice and totally removed other names. That’s immoral. And the solution is simple: act like decent human beings.”
The more vaccinations the better
On March 4 the Albert government announced the province is preparing to start Phase 2 of vaccinations, expanding eligibility to more Albertans.
“We love hearing that more people will get the shot,” says Gostola. “But I find this announcement hard to believe when frontline health care workers, who were supposed to get inoculated in phase one, are still waiting.
“The UCP already lied once about its vaccine successes. Instead of trying to win political points by getting praise for things they haven’t done yet, they should actually do something today, and address the AHS favouritism. It’s simple, and it will keep people healthy, and probably save lives.”
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